We are creating a unified UKRI website that brings together the existing research council, Innovate UK and Research England websites.
If you would like to be involved in its development let us know.

Feeding our Futures

6 February 2019

(Credit: STFC)

Food insecurity is a huge global problem. Rising populations have resulted in an increased demand for food. Changes in consumer preferences, climate change, water scarcity are all adding to the pressures on our resources. The UN quotes one billion people worldwide are undernourished. Forecasts for 2050 predict a 60% increase in food production will be required to support the world’s population.

Although acknowledged globally as a grand challenge the problem is not easy to solve, we need to rethink the very way future generations approach farming and consumerism.  The idea of educating our future engineers and scientists is one shared by STFC public engagement and Farm Urban.

Farm Urban are already collaborating with schools around Liverpool city region to introduce them to the concept of urban farming.  Together with Well Halton, Daresbury Laboratory supported a week of activities to educate local schools.

Children visited Farm Urban, based at the Liverpool Life Sciences UTC, where they took part in an Aquaponics Challenge working together to build a Produce Pod aquaponics system.  After learning about the environmental challenges of food production, the children then took their own Produce Pod back to school to educate further their local community.

In addition to the trip to Farm Urban, children were visited in their classroom by Daresbury Laboratory’s public engagement team. The pupils worked with scientists working at the lab, some of whom are involved in advanced versions of the ‘Produce Pod’ activities. After an introduction to computer coding the children learned how to use the sensors to collect data from their Produce Pods in order to design and run experiments. To finish the day there was also a surprise visit from Hartree’s Pepper the robot.


Aquaponics is the technique of growing fish and crops together in a completely closed-loop ecosystem. The system is based on agricultural methods that are actually thousands of years old. In the systems that Farm Urban build, these ancient methods have been updated and made suitable for the urban environment.

In its simplest form, fish excrete waste into the water and this waste makes the perfect fertiliser for the plants, so we pump it into a separate tank where microbes break it down to release the nutrients which feed the plants. By removing these nutrients from the water the microbes and plants act as a bio-filter, cleaning the water as it flows back to the fish to start the whole process again.

(Credit: Farm Urban)

If you enjoyed this, never miss a story by subscribing to our newsletter FASCINATION:

Subscribe to Fascination

Last updated: 25 February 2019


Science and Technology Facilities Council
Switchboard: +44 (0)1793 442000