Green Lab is pleased to announce that we have been selected by The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew to take part in Grow Wild UK 2018, a community project that aims to bring people together through activities that connect their community and celebrate UK native wildflowers, plants and/or fungi.
With food, water and waste being our fundamental concerns, the Green Lab team will be exploring the native species that are easy to grow in the British climate and should make more of a steady appearance in our meals.
The project will be led by Green Lab resident Ana Jaramillo, who will open the lab for members of the community who wish to take part in a series of educational and gastronomic experiences. With the participation of local chefs/cooks and Green Lab volunteers, we will grow, cook and curate a tantalising set of dishes for the Grow Wild UK 2018 “Tasty Natives: sustainable cooking experience”. From starters to desserts, there is a wide range of options to be explored.
‘Tasty Natives’ will bring together the local community and provide them with knowledge about the importance of sustainable food production and its relationship with native species, flowers and fungi.
Thymus Polytrichus – Native wild common thyme
With our reliance on food to survive we will use this as an opportunity to discuss various sustainable food options, how we can collectively tackle our growing food demand, how to minimise and utilise food waste, food scarcity, and more circular growing and consuming systems. With this interactive gastronomic experience we hope to inspire the community to take action!
Our collective experience throughout the project will be curated into a crowd sourced digital recipe book, ‘Tasty Natives’, including ideas and recipes from the those that partake in the project.
We hope that our ‘Tasty Natives’ project will become a nationwide educational tool and source of inspiration for anyone to get more involved with their locally grown produce and experiment cooking with new ingredients, supporting the Grow Wild initiative.
If you have a few hours to spare and wish to be part of the Tasty Natives volunteering team please do not hesitate to contact Ana Jaramillo: firstname.lastname@example.org. The project will be great fun to take part in and an edible journey, we also need to people with a plethora of different skills so if you haven’t grown before or cooking isn’t your strong point their are still many ways for you to get involved!
Our first event for Tasty Natives will be an #openhouse day on Saturday 14th April, come along to find out more about the project and taste some natives – tickets are FREE.
The project looked to explore the role of technology in the arts and how this will impact the future of our creativity. As we continue to live in an age of rapid technological change we need to explore how this will impact all areas of our lives and industry. By embracing these advancements we can utilize technology to create, make and grow towards the best possible future.
The digital maker collective transformed the Tate Exchange into a large public innovation hub, exploring different forms of technological advancement and inviting both makers and the public to get involved, contributing a hands on experience to the event.
Green Lab was part of the ‘Growing Space‘, contributing seedlings, plants and technology for growing.
About Growing Space –
‘A collaborative project about local collection and sustainable, communal space.
This project is the adaptation of a greenhouse in an indoor environment, raising questions about sustainability. Since it is locally sourced with non-specialist materials from recycling circuits, it is aimed to be easy to build on its own, as a modular framework that can be replicated by anyone.
The modularity of the space provides an expanding and growing capacity backed up by the plants growing in it, creating an intimate pleasant atmosphere, in which the air is filtered, providing a cleaner environment to be in.
This adaptable space rethinks design as a collecting and evolving activity that can be shared between the members/builders.’
The space was an organic structure that took shape throughout the six days that the event ran for, with both a team from UAL and Green Lab helping to build the space, add plants and technology and engage the public to help the environment grow and expand. The project was a place to learn about the possibilities of growing in whatever space you have available to you, highlighting the options to grow within the city with just a bit of creativity and experimentation.
The project also highlighted the ability to find usable materials from your surroundings, collecting local unwanted materials from businesses to build and grow in. With the combination of low tech and high tech the project successfully planted the beginning of an edible garden with minimal cost and maximum imagination.
Providing seedlings and plants from the lab the space soon became a green jungle of intrigue, with chilli’s and microgreens provided by lab resident Silly Greens being grown in recycled plastic bottles and coffee cups.
The smart system also combined a Blynk dashboard and Arduino to keep track of the air quality, humidity, light and temperature of the growing space.
While the concern for the future of our growing systems increases it is easy to focus on the large long term struggles we will face trying to feed the planet globally, while forgetting the small change you can make yourself, even if you lack outside space, with bit of versatility you can grow small amounts with an adaptable modular system right at home.
To highlight this our resident hydroponics designer, Ed the urban researcher, held an interactive workshop showing just how easy it is to create a small scale hydroponics system with a bucket, some ventilation ducting and a water pump.
If you want to learn more about the projects we explore at the lab and how you can adapt your living space to house some simple small scale growing systems at a low cost come along to our #openhouse events or sign up for an aquaponics workshop.
The video below captures the space and the various projects that the public could interact with. To find out more about the different work exhibited head to Arts Work of the Future.
Silly greens moved into the lab just before Christmas and they have been busy perfecting their growing space to ensure they can produce the tastiest microgreens since then.
Silly Greens ethos is simple, helping people to access and grow their own microgreens, allowing them to dress up any home cooked meal. With their handy delivery system they really do provide a hassle free and easy way for you to grow at home. Each week they will focus on just 3 flavours to offer to their customers, hand sewing them, before posting them to you in a handily packed box small enough to fit through your post box.
Once you have received your greens you just need to tear of the top of the box and place them near a window, water them lightly and allow the warmth and light to do the rest. The variety of 3 different microgreens per box allows them to send you a selection of fast, medium and slow growers.
Ed Hall started silly greens after experimenting with micro growing and has spent the past 18months trying to perfect his technique, to allow him to supply the tastiest greens direct to your door.
A little about micro greens –
Microgreens are as you probably guessed it ‘micro’ ‘greens’ these teeny portions of veg are edible plants that have been harvested at the seedling stage – when they first begin to sprout is prime microgreen harvesting time. They can be grown on your kitchen windowsill with minimal maintenance allowing you to dip your toe into the gardening world without having to ever actually venture outside – an exciting prospect in these cold and miserable months. Because they are harvested so early there is also very little time to get it wrong! Again a great delight for the novice gardener – as long as the soil or quite often material pad they are being grown in is kept damp and they are receiving some warmth and light from the window you should be eating your little triumphs in no time.
Microgreens not only taste wonderful with their intense flavour but they are also a concentrated nutrient source, often containing higher levels of vitamins and caretonoids than their fully grown and mature relatives.
Green Lab will be hosting a pop up bacteria bar – Microbial Circus Tour – with Edible Alchemy on Tuesday 20th March.
Bacteria Baristas Alexis Goertz & Natalie Elizabeth will be running the evening with some Kombucha from our resident fermentation specialist Jon Katona.
Join us on from 6.30pm for a colourful and wonderful gastronomic experience as we explore the world of bacteria and healthier living.
Learn how probiotics can help you boost your health, improve digestion and your gut while enjoying the amazing flavors of natural probiotic foods. We’ll give you a real insight into how these bacteria can help you live a far more healthier lifestyle. There will tasting sessions throughout the evening across a eclectic mix of food types – one for food adventurers, explorers and curious foodies.
Bacteria Baristas – Alexis Goertz & Natalie Elizabeth
Passionate DIY fermentation-foodies, who have been creating foods, drinks and events as Edible Alchemy 2013. We have traveled the world, collecting rare probiotic cultures, and sampling local fermented delicacies, while honing our craft. The bacterial succession spreads the Edible Alchemy headquarters over two continents – Europe, based in Berlin with Alexis, and North America, based in Winnipeg with Natalie – https://ediblealchemy.co/
On Saturday 17th March our friends from the Institute of Making at Slade, UCL will be hosting a 1 day workshop with the Calthorpe Project. To learn more about food production, sustainability and closing the energy loop register for your free ticket.
Throughout this wonderland of food activities you will be introduced to growing in anti-gravity conditions and concoct your own veggie sausages, using ingredients harvested from the Calthorpe Project.
‘A one-day hands-on workshop with academics and artists from the Slade School of Art, UCL on the theme of food production, sustainability and closing the energy loop. You will have the opportunity to join an experiment to test a hydroponic plant machine, originally devised by NASA and make your own vegetarian closed loop sausages.
10am – 1pm: Artist Nick Laessing will introduce his Plant Orbiter, a hydroponic machine which tests whether anti-gravity conditions can increase plant growth. His project looks at the future of urban food production, technology and self-sufficiency. You will be invited to plant your choice of edible food plants and herbs for later harvest. Participants can volunteer to become hydroponic gardeners/experimenters during the plants’ growth cycle.
Lunch is provided by the Calthorpe Garden Cafe and includes some of the food grown in the community garden.
2pm – 5pm: Artist Ellie Doney will lead the afternoon’s sausage making workshop, inviting you to choose edible materials grown at the Calthorpe Project to devise, cook and eat closed loop veggie sausages. Using sausage anatomy as a delicious metaphor, we will explore questions about how we eat, what we eat, our bodies, identity and our relationship with our environment. Please bring along an edible ingredient to introduce yourself and add to the sausage pantry.
Nick Laessing is an artist exploring the interfaces of art, technology and eco-crisis. His research project life-systems, addresses how art can confront ecological issues such as food and energy production through speculative technologies that encourage participation and engagement.
Ellie Doney is an artist researcher whose PhD project Food & Transformation travels the borders of human and non-human matter, and asks how we become like the materials we encounter, through cooking and eating with people. Her research unwraps the many layers of properties within matter to find out how we all interrelate.’
Bento Lab is a DNA analysis laboratory created by Bethan Wolfenden and Philipp Boeing. The duo are currently in their first production run of the first affordable DNA laboratory after it successfully passed beta testing. With backgrounds in Biochemistry and Computer Science they are seeking to bring DNA testing into the public sector, allowing anyone to conduct their own simple DNA analysis with the use of the lab.
The beauty of the design is its compact size and accessibility. With the lab measuring no more than the average size of a laptop, you could literally take your lab with you. This is a game changer for the world of science. As someone that last conducted a scientific experiment in secondary school, the world of laboratories, DNA testing and white coats has seemed a very closed of and inaccessible space, one reserved for only the highly intellectual. Bento Lab brings this world into everyday accessibility. With the rise of makers spaces, DIY and opensource we are seeing a transition from these disciplines being reserved for the technically trained to an open space for collaboration and cross disciplinary work. The more transparency we see through these sectors the greater chance for public engagement and understanding, potentially leading to the possibility of a more inclusive community.
Citizen science and the maker movement was an important source of inspiration for Bethan and Philipp, who were running hands-on biotechnology workshops in schools and community centers and were becoming frustrated at the lack of accessible hardware for these events. After taking an initial mock-up of the lab to a maker festival in Rome in 2013 and receiving positive feedback they realized this concept had depth and needed to be scaled, bringing the use of a DNA laboratory to the many.
As in keeping with the accessibility this lab will bring to science, a proportion of the funding they raised for their first production run was via Kickstarter. Running this campaign meant that the public and educational institutions could donate to the cause, or pre-order their own Bento Lab.
What is Bento Lab exactly?
‘Bento Lab is the first complete DNA laboratory, suitable for a beginner to a professional. It comes with a PCR thermocycler, a centrifuge and a gel electrophoresis box and power supply with blue LED transillumination – all controlled by an intuitive interface. And with an A4 footprint that fits into any laptop-sized bag, Bento Lab can travel wherever your science goes.’
For our first #openhouse of 2018 we welcomed our fellow urban agricultural mavericks into the lab to hear how urban ag is impacting cities and communities around the globe. With urbanisation on the rise and our growing concerns for the current food systems in place we are seeing technology set to play a larger role. With this increasing move from countryside to city our relationships to our food sources are becoming jeopardised and as a result people are turning their hand to growing for themselves, finding unique and smart ways to grow within the city. We heard from our green fingered friends in New York and Shanghai, discussing how our cities are growing for the future and how small change is taking place across the globe.
We heard from Agritecture – an urban agriculture consultancy based in New York and we also spoke to AgTech X, a makers space based in Brooklyn creating opportunities and space for designers and makers to build an urban agriculture community.
Henry Gordon-Smith, Founder of Agritecture, showed us different examples of urban agriculture throughout the city, ranging from low tech community based projects to high tech commercial ventures.
We looked at case studies of these different typologies, focusing on 5 New York based projects:
Edenworks – a commercial vertical aquaponic growing system.
Each of these examples have varying levels of success and Henry discussed the urban agriculture impact categories that they measure projects against – looking at success more holistically and how it impacts not only on an economic level. The categories we looked at are:
Aesthetics – does it attract people? Is it an enjoyable experience?
Social – does the farm engage the community? does it improve food justice and equality?
Economic – How much yield does the farm producer? does it create jobs and revenue?
Ecological – does it encourage biodiversity? does it help to manage rain and storm water
Health – Is it providing fresh food for those that need it? Is it providing stress relief and a sanctuary from urban living?
It was a comforting insight to hear that not everyone measures success on ‘growth’ and that sometimes the project with the most impact are not the most economically minded.
The discussion of low tech versus high tech urban farming was another interesting point. With many people joining the urban agriculture movement keen to use high tech smart methods, such as hydroponics, aquaponics and aeroponics, soil based farming can often be overlooked, despite it’s many benefits. Whilst high tech farming and controlled growing environments can result in food security and utilise precious space these methods take time to perfect and the energy consumption can be huge. They also may not provide the local community with sometimes much needed jobs and the biodiversity we all need to bring back to our cities.
We also heard from Ricky Stephens, co-founder of AgTech X, a co-working space focused on the intersection of urban agriculture, technology and sustainability. Based in Brooklyn, AgTech X is creating a working community space that also runs classes and workshop for the public to engage with. As we are finding with Green Lab it is becoming increasingly important for these spaces to exist, not only as a space for play, test and experiment with new ideas, but also to create a dialogue between the local community and those working and growing within the city. Green Lab and AgTech X are facing similar hurdles in sustaining this concept, looking for a permanent space where the ideas can grow and for that all important funding to sustain the project.
We also heard from Andy Garcia – a product design engineer and founder of Domosfarms – based in Shanghai.
Whilst New York has been a big player in the urban agriculture scene from the beginning we hadn’t heard much in the way of China’s involvement and Andy gave us an interesting insight into the urban ag community developing in shanghai and also the general agricultural issues that China is currently facing.
When Andy first moved to shanghai 8 months ago he found that he not only couldn’t drink the tap water but he couldn’t cook with it due to the heavy metals found in the water. These heavy metals are a result of china’s mining and processing industries. These metals cant be filtered by the body, resulting in an increased chance of cancer and disease when consumed. Not only are these heavy metals found within the water systems but also within the food grown and produced.
With this concern Andy was keen to start producing his own food and he started to build his first hydroponics system. With the success of his first system he garnered interest from others keen to produce their own food and is now in the process of creating two open source projects for those wishing to build their own hydroponic systems and produce their own food.
China came quite late to the urban agriculture movement, with neighboring countries of Japan and Korea way ahead of them. this was partly due to their large agriculture industry producing plenty of food but in recent years, with increased urbanisation and fears of both food security and food safety the need to explore urban agriculture has increased.
The safety of the food produced has come into question, with the entire food system now possibly contaminated from China’s industries people are now demanding safer food.
China is addressing this problem by investing in land all over the world, having brought areas in Africa, America and Australia. They are also looking to architectural developments to solve their problems with a current project being built on the outskirts of Shanghai. Sunqiao Urban Agricultural District is being developed to include vertical farming systems such as hydroponics and aquaculture, whilst also providing research and public outreach to the community.
Our next #openhouse will be on Thursday 22nd February, make sure you sign up here.
Jon Katona, Green Labs resident Kombucha specialist is now fermenting and brewing his own Kombucha here in the lab.
Kombucha is raw fermented tea. The sugar-tea solution is fermented by bacteria and yeast commonly known as SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). Although its usually made with black tea, Kombucha can also be made with many other types of tea, or even coffee. These ingredients are left to ferment in a warm environment for a period of time, becoming a delicious, refreshing, nutrient dense drink.
Green Lab has been brewing its own Kombucha for the past 6 months and we’re keen to share how simple and straight forward it can be to ferment your own strain of tea and get creative with flavouring.
With the increasing concern with our own bacteria and maintaining a healthy gut Kombucha has grown in popularity. Fermenting foods in order to keeps stores during the winter is an age old technique and along the way our ancestors discovered that this technique also aided their health. In more recent years and our reliance on a fridge/freezer the need to ferment and preserve our fresh food in the same way lessened. With this we not only lost an understanding of seasons but we neglected our gut health. We are now starting to re-appreciate how vital a varied diet with the addition of fermented foods can be, with many seeking out easy pro-biotic boosts such as Kombucha.
The health benefits from fermented foods are plentiful from help with nutrient absorption, vitamin synthesis, breaking down proteins, alkalizing pH, restoring homeostasis, boosting immunity, and producing immunoglobulins. The process enables the nutrients to be more easily absorbed by our bodies, allowing us to work less and benefit more.
We hosted our first workshop last weekend at the lab. The event started with a tasting session, trying some punchy freshly brewed Kombucha and raspberry puree before diving into the deep end, learning about the drinks restorative, detoxifying and adaptive properties. Their were tastings of live ‘booch’ through the different fermentation stages, which gave the class a sense of the flavour evolution throughout the process – from sweet to tart as the brew matures, right through to extremely potent and versatile Kombucha vinegar. They tasted bottle-aged Kombucha flavoured with ingredients from fiery chilli, sasperilla root, rosemary and schizandra berry. Everyone was then given a SCOBY starter kit to start brewing their own concoctions at home as well as some of their own personally flavoured brew.
If you are interested to learn more about Kombucha and how easy it can be to make yourself, sign up to one our workshops to kick start your fermentation journey.
Jon will be hosting his next Kombucha workshop here at the lab – ‘learn to ferment and make your own Kombucha at Green Lab’ on Saturday 27th January, buy tickets here.
He will also be hosting ‘Learn to brew Kombucha with Green Lab’ at Makerversity as part of their Material Explorations program. For the third part of the series they are presenting Pharma Foods, exploring the world of synthetic biology and discussing how our eating habits are set to change. With progress into lab grown food, and ethical decisions, Kombucha represents how our search for health can also look to the past.
‘Learn to brew Kombucha with Green Lab’ will be held at Makerversity, Somerset House on Saturday 10th February, buy tickets here.
We now have a fully functioning vertical farm in the Lab employing a tower growing system using aquaponics.
With the delivery of the mint and fish our vertical farm is now fully up and running and we can share with you how and why you should have one too.
We are growing mint in our vertical farm and using an aquaponic system that works with fish, however the basics are fully adaptable to suit your own needs, with the ability to grow a host of various herbs.
Ed who built the system for us explains the basics of how it works –
‘The idea of the vertical wall was that it will fit in a small space and it’s a modular system that can be easily increased in size by adding more wall structures. The design behind it has been left open – I did this partly as an educational piece, it explains itself to the viewer, and can be easily replicated. The system could fit in a school or an office space and would allow you to grow fresh herbs and vegetables.
The system is aquaponic – it’s a circular system – you feed the fish which in turn poo, the bacteria then converts the ammonia in the fish poo into nitrates which are absorbed by the plants and used as nutrients, whilst cleaning the water before returning this to the fish tank.
The fact it’s a modular system means that it can be easily adapted – you can even run the system without fish, turning it into a hydroponic system instead, by adding nutrients to the water instead of using the fish poo.’
Grow Wild is the UK’s biggest wild flower planting initiative brought to us by Kew Gardens. As we grow more concerned with the future of our wildlife and our fragile ecosystems in danger of being disrupted we are finding that small groups of people are fighting back with responses as simple as planting native flowers and encouraging wildlife back into their gardens.
Grow Wild is encouraging communities to take back their green spaces and spread wild flower seeds. Having lost 97% of our wild flower fields since 1970 this initiative is extremely important in protecting our natural spaces.
As part of the initiative Grow Wild has now launched their community funding opportunities for more people to get involved, find out more below.
HOW CAN YOU TAKE PART
‘Grow Wild, is excited to launch our new community project funding for 2018. We are awarding funding of £2,000 or £4,000 to community groups that want to bring people together through activities that connect their community and celebrate UK native wild flowers, plants and/or fungi.
Do you have an interesting idea for involving your group or local community in a project. Will it capture people’s attention and connect everybody through activities focused on the creative transformation of an area where they live and spend time? Click here to read all about the funding opportunity. Make sure you download the guidance document and read it fully. It tells you everything you need to know about who can apply, the criteria for funding and the process for completing an application.
Grow Wild is here to help and advise groups along the way. We have dedicated Engagement Managers working across the UK to help guide your thinking and develop your project idea. Contact information can be found in the guidance document.’