A project to convert surplus food into ready meals, a study exploring how vertical farms utilising controlled agricultural environments could re-localise food production, and a project to grow fruit and vegetables by retrofitting aeroponic technology into redundant buildings have been awarded feasibility funding from a £2.1 million sustainable food production challenge.
The challenge, which is a partnership between Cardiff Council, Monmouthshire County Council, the Cardiff Capital Region Challenge Fund, Welsh Government, and the SBRI (Small Business Research Initiative) Centre of Excellence, aims to identify and support projects that can harness the potential of land, technology, and people to increase the sustainable production and supply of locally grown food in the Cardiff Capital Region.
Selected from more than twenty funding bids, the three successful bids have all been awarded a four-month feasibility contract of up to £50,000 per project. At the end of the four months, the projects will be assessed and the most promising will be awarded additional funding to pilot and test prototypes.
- Bristol-based LettUs Grow Ltd are specialists in indoor vertical farming and a technology provider for controlled environment agriculture. Their project brings together a consortium of local experts to explore the commercial, environmental and social feasibility of integrating controlled environment agriculture with Welsh supply chains.
- First developed by NASA in the 1970s, aeroponic technology is an indoor, modular technology that grows fruit and vegetables by spraying small amounts of recycled water and nutrients directly onto crop roots. The system uses 95% less water and much less energy than traditional hydroponics and can be retrofitted into redundant buildings, or even rooftops. Soilessentials Ltd will use their funding to look at the possibility of installing an indoor aeroponics system in the Cardiff Capital Region.
- Fareshare Cymru, redistributed 750 tonnes of food to charities and community groups in Wales last year. They’re the biggest redistributor of surplus food from the food industry in Wales, but they can’t currently use all the food they have access to. Rather than waste it they want to turn it into ready meals or storable products, at scale, which they can make available to their clients. Their feasibility study will look to find out whether it is possible to use food and drink manufacturers facilities to manufacture products from surplus food.
Cardiff Council Cabinet Member for Public Health & Equality, Cllr Julie Sangani, said: “The majority of food we eat ends up on our plates at the end of long, complex, global supply chains, bringing with it high environmental costs and potential for disruption by global events, leading to higher prices for consumers.
“The projects receiving funding in phase one of the Food Challenge present some really interesting potential solutions that could help secure the supply of sustainable, low-cost and locally grown food that is key to overcoming the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and diet-related illness, all of which impact most heavily on the least well-off in society.”
Monmouthshire County Council Cabinet Member for Inclusive and Active Communities, Cllr Sara Burch, said: “In an era of climate change and economic volatility it’s important that we produce more food locally and waste less of what we produce. I’m really excited that Cardiff Capital Region is supporting these innovative projects. Our focus in Monmouthshire will always be sustainable traditional farming, but the Challenge has brought in many exciting opportunities for our region and county.”
Gareth Browning, CCR Head of Challenges, said: “2023 has started in the most positive way possible, with the award of three development contracts that augur well for the success of the CCR Food Innovation Challenge. All three projects demonstrate the ambition and vision needed to tackle the challenge of food security, through inspired ingenuity and a commitment to pushing the boundaries of current thinking in the most imaginative and impactful way possible.
“We now hope to see these innovations scale and our local supply chains thrive, not least as the potential seriousness of the wider food challenge is becoming more and more apparent, month by month, across the globe. Each of these three awards demonstrate our Region’s commitment to finding sustainable solutions that can galvanise our efforts in shaping a better future for the people of South-East Wales.”
Due to the level of interest in the initial feasibility stage of the challenge, a further round of phase one feasibility funding, is also planned for later in 2023.