New urban farm project launched by Sheffield’s Institute for Sustainable Food

The University of Sheffield’s Institute for Sustainable Food (ISF) has officially launched its exciting new project at Tinsley Tingas!

In one of its former classrooms, an abandoned school building now gives home to a set of hydroponic systems providing a variety of herbs and leafy greens. The soil-free production systems were built using low-cost up-cycled materials and a specially formulated polyurethane foam, developed at the University, which acts as an effective alternative growth medium for the plants. According to the leader of the project Jacob Nickles, the purpose of the urban farm is to demonstrate some of the groundbreaking work that happens at the University and act as a community hub to connect residents, academics and local businesses in the name of sustainable food production.

The opening event, titled Food in the Urban Environment, took place on 17th May 2019, where a number of academics from across the UK, with a guest speaker from Oko Farms, New York’s largest outdoor aquaponic farm, presented their research and ideas on a range of topics related to sustainable food production, nutrition and the governance of these systems. From these insightful talks we could get answers to questions as diverse as “How much food do we waste globally?”, “What does farmers’ concern with their image have to do with the sustainability of agriculture?” and “How do I get my children to eat more vegetables?”. The professional day was followed by a ‘Family Fun Day’ on the 18th, where members of the public could learn about healthy eating and growing food in cities, and try their hands—and tastebuds!—at urban farming.

The Tinsley urban food project forms part of the translational research happening at the University’s recently founded Institute for Sustainable Food, whose aim is to find practical solutions to complex global problems related to food security and the sustainability of the food system. To tackle these challenges, the Institute takes an interdisciplinary approach, bringing together expertise from both the natural and social sciences and focusing on knowledge exchange and collaboration between different faculties. They also emphasise the importance of engaging with businesses and the general public. As stated by Dave Petley, Vice-President for Research and Innovation at the University, scientists now agree that if they want to make real change in the world, it is not enough for them to sit in a room and talk about how it could be done: they must go out there and work together with the people. Projects like the urban farm at Tinsley could play a vital role in this, and help make sustainable food production a reality for everyone.

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