Schools from across Liverpool came together at the end of June for the finale of the first ever Future Food Challenge, a 12 week programme delivered by social enterprise Farm Urban and The University of Liverpool’s Institute of Integrative Biology.
The programme, funded by Shaping Futures, the Merseyside partner for the National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP), inspires young people to do science and enterprise differently, challenging Year 9 students to find solutions to tackle the issue of global food security by focusing on ways to grow more food in our cities using aquaponics – growing fish and plants together in a closed-loop ecosystem.
The programme started in January with Farm Urban touring local schools to deliver their TEDx talk, “Fixing the Broken Food System” and then inviting Year 9 students to apply to take part in the 12-week after – school programme. Following a launch event at The University of Liverpool, where participants took part in a host of workshops, including an aquaponics challenge, business masterclasses and scientist speed-dating, students then returned to their schools ready to start the 12 week challenge.
Each team immersed themselves in the science of aquaponics, with their very own Produce Pod system from Farm Urban to experiment with, before forming their own startup, developing a business idea and designing and building their own aquaponic food system.
The programme provides students with the opportunity to gain an insight into startup businesses, social enterprise and how they link into Higher Education activity, whilst developing skills in project management, leadership, finance, teamwork, communication and scientific research.
The finale event, held at Farm Urban’s agri-lab space at the Liverpool Life Sciences UTC school, gave teams the opportunity to exhibit their work, display their systems and pitch their business idea to a panel of judges, comprised of local business leaders and university academics.
Business ideas ranged from systems for use in primary schools to hospitals and local cafes. The overall winners from Woodchurch High School, on the Wirral, carried out research using recent data from the Trussell Trust and spoke to local charities and churches to create a system that would provide fresh food for those accessing food banks.
Dr Iain Young, senior lecturer at The Institute for Integrative Biology and the University lead for the programme said: “Teaming up with organisations outside the university can be a really powerful way of delivering public engagement, showcasing our science and involving the public in research.