Dermot O'Regan and Pete Whiting

THE SUSTAINABLE FISH FARM IN BRISTOL THAT HAS LOCALS HOOKED: HOW A POINEERING SOCIAL VENTURE IS USING ‘PEE-CYCLING’ TO HELP FEED A CITY

It’s already famous for its cider and cheese production.

But the West Country’s culinary heritage is now being boosted by a pioneering urban farming project in Bristol.

Working out of old shipping containers on a disused industrial estate behind Bristol Temple Meads train station, Grow Bristol have developed sustainable ways of growing vegetables and herbs and farming fish for the local community.

Founded in 2013 by horticulturalist Peter Whiting and Dermot O’ Regan who previously worked as an advisor to the Environment Agency, the pair were inspired to launch the venture after learning about the demands being placed on food production and distribution around the world.

Traditional farming methods currently mean the average distance travelled by a lettuce to a UK dinner plate is 1,800 miles. It also requires 130 litres of wate to produce, while sixty percent of the fruit and vegetables eaten in the UK are imported.

Dermot and Peter are now using innovative aquaponic and hydroponic techniques to grow plants and crops in water alongside Tilapia fish.

The fish are fed with locally sourced food, including discarded grain from Bristol breweries, with their waste providing an organic food source for the growing plants.

The plants then provide a natural filter for the water the fish live in – a process which Dermot and Peter have dubbed ‘pee-cycling’.

It means that less water gets used than in other forms of agriculture, and the system produces little waste and uses no artificial nutrients or pesticides. In addition, the ‘Grow Box’ is powered by renewable energy from solar panels and the Tilapia – the second most commonly farmed fish worldwide after carp – are sold on to local restaurants and fishmongers.

As well as environmental and economic benefits, the pair are also helping the local community socially by providing jobs, including placements, volunteering and training, as well as inspiring residents to grow their own food in small city places not traditionally suited to agriculture.

Dermot and Peter’s short-term aim is to produce 40-50 kilos of fresh, sustainable vegetables each week, all year round. In the future they hope to grow up to 500 kilos per week.

To learn more about Grow Bristol, visit: www.growbristol.co.uk

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