Led by sustainability experts Dr Ian Tennant and Gloria McNeil, Local Roots Limited provides expertise and a service to allow caterers and organisations to grow their own food on site.
Local Roots Limited has set up a small version of a new vertical farming system, VydroFarm, recently launched by hydroponics company HydroGarden, based in Coventry. Installed in the College’s on-site restaurant, the horticultural department will participate in a two to three month trial to grow fresh ingredients that can be used in the College’s Parcs Restaurant, before the system is relocated to other local establishments.
VydroFarm is a controllable environmental system and features vertical racks on tracks that can be moved together. The VydroFarm system can be monitored and controlled remotely via smart phone, tablet or PC, and is lit with Valoya LED lights. VydroFarm units are scalable, for small scale production for a single restaurant, or for commercial growers.
The VydroFarm at the College will hold up to 132 plants and the College’s horticultural students will be growing leafy greens, salads and herbs. The time it will take for a crop to grow will be up to 20 per cent less than growing via traditional farming methods while also using less water. In addition, the amount of time between harvesting and serving can be minimised to ensure that fresh ingredients are available all year round.
HydroGarden commercial sales manager Stephen Fry said: "Utilising VydroFarm in a catering environment is just one of the applications through which it could make a significant contribution to providing sustainable solutions for future food production.
"Not only will it save on ingredient costs and delivery, it can become an exciting talking point, setting restaurants apart in a highly competitive market. Its scalability is perfect for restaurant designers as it can be adapted to fit almost any area. The controlled environment makes is perfect for herbs, microgreens, edible flowers and even strawberries, and the consistency of the growth and quality achieved across the crop will be higher resulting in less wastage. The ingredients will also be much fresher than those bought in as they can be harvested on-site as required."
Parcs Restaurant is run solely by staff and students and is open during midweek lunchtimes and two evenings every week during term time.