Predict and

With central government examining the surge of emergency foodbanks and charities warning of an increase in poverty-related hunger, it’s clear food insecurity is on the rise. The horsemeat scandal may have raised a lot of questions about our supermarkets but more daunting questions are now being asked about how we protect the poorest from rising food prices. How can we make healthy food more accessible in the wake of the cuts? And can cities really feed themselves? Manchester International Festival and the Biospheric Foundation in Salford are working together to answer these very questions. On the banks of the River Irwell in a disused mill in the centre of Salford, the Biospheric Project is part farm, part laboratory and is testing various food growing systems to see which techniques make ecological and economic sense. Once dominated by concrete and bricks, the former printing warehouse is now bursting with crops, fish tanks and mushrooms. Vincent Walsh, who heads the Biospheric Foundation, says economic, ecological and political turmoil means now is the perfect time for change. “We need to look again at how we grow, how we build and work

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towards a solution to the mess we’ve found ourselves in,” says Walsh. “Orchards and raised beds are dominant in the urban landscape but we need to challenge that and introduce a wider range of food growing systems. We want to see people growing an array of different crops together, actively encouraging biodiversity and trying new things.” The Biospheric Project will be testing organic mushroom growing, using worms to deal with waste, and will also have a permaculture farm on the rooftop to limit the need for artificial lighting. Below the roof will be the aquaponics experiment where the nitrates created by fish will be pumped up to feed the leaf crops. Outside the warehouse, a patch of land has been newly dug up and planted with 60 different types of edible fruiting trees and shrubs, including pear, plum, cherry and blackcurrant, to create an edible garden. But the novelty of the Biospheric Project – testing a range of food growing techniques in such a dense space – could also be its downfall. Walsh says that failure is “absolutely an option” and “may even be necessary if we want to evolve” but it’s something that MIF is probaby keen to avoid. The Biospheric Project

From horsemeat in burgers to povertyrelated hunger, food is in the headlines in the worst possible way. Yet as food prices continue to rise and cities grow, the shortage of affordable and healthy food looks set to worsen. So what can an old mill in Salford do to bring sustainable and wholesome fare to our cities? Arwa Aburawa investigates

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THE BIG ISSUE IN THE NORTH · 15-21 APRIL 2013

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12/04/2013 14:10

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