FixOurFood at the Yorkshire Show
From 11-14 July, a large number of the FixOurFood researchers could be found in the Meet the Farmer area of the Great Yorkshire Show. We took a demonstration of our vertical farm with us – complete with two beds of microgreen crops growing aeroponically. We also offered visitors a chance to experience the vertical farm in virtual reality.
For those who are not aware, FixOurFood runs an indoor urban vertical farm, Grow It York, in a shipping container at Spark, in the centre of York. The farm supplies hyper-local produce (primarily microgreens and herbs) to the surrounding businesses and communities. It was built to investigate how vertical farming can play a role in creating positive change within our food systems, benefiting our health, environment and economy. Because we can control everything within the vertical farm from plant nutrients to lighting, temperature and water, crop yields are very predictable, with short times to harvest, minimal waste, and produce
which is highly nutritious. The work at the farm involves researching the best crops and growing conditions, as well as exploring possible business models and viability for container farms like Grow It York to have environmental and social benefit.
We have had a huge interest in the farm, but it is not practical to show too many visitors around what is effectively a cleanroom environment. That’s where the VR and AR programs come in. As a result of a great collaborative project with the School of Arts and Creative Technologies at the University of York, students developed virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experiences based on the vertical farm – delivered via headsets and
a ‘walk through’ iPad experience.
The students were able to take 360 degree photographs of the farm space as well as film the farm manager at work in the farm. The results are a VR 3D film of Grow It York and an interactive re-creation of the farm interior which allows users to move through the space and gain an understanding of the way the farm operates. Our VR and AR experiences were particularly popular at the show with younger visitors at the Yorkshire Show – including our Leaders for Change students. They joined us for some of the show to engage with visitors about school food as well as conducting questionnaires about attitudes to food grown in vertical farms.
We had some great conversations at the show – not just about the farm, but generally about the work FixOuFood is doing to help transform the Yorkshire food system. For those who ventured to the Innovation tent at the show, there was information available about our plot trials at the University of Leeds farm, co-created with farmers to investigate regenerative farming techniques.