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Horticulture and hospitality students at Peterborough Regional College have embarked on a collaborative initiative with Local Roots Limited which will reduce the food miles associated with some of the ingredients used in the College’s own Parcs Restaurant to zero.
Led by sustainability experts Dr Ian Tennant and Gloria McNeil, Local Roots Limited provides expertise and a fully serviced solution to allow caterers and organisations to grow their own food on site.
Local Roots Limited has set up a small version of a new vertical farming system, VydroFarm, recently launched by hydroponics innovator HydroGarden, based in Coventry. Installed in the College’s on-site restaurant, the horticultural department will participate in a two to three month trial to grow fresh ingredients that can be used in the College’s Parcs Restaurant, before the system is relocated to other local establishments.
VydroFarm is a versatile and fully-controllable environmental system and features vertical racks on tracks that can be moved together to save space and maximise production density as well as enable easier harvesting, whether automated or by hand. The VydroFarm system can be monitored and controlled remotely via smart phone, tablet or PC, and optimum lighting conditions for crop growth are achieved with Valoya LED lights. VydroFarm units are full scalable, making them equally suitable for small scale production for a single restaurant, or for commercial growers requiring a large scale solution for growing crops in adverse climates or where space is limited such as urban areas.
The VydroFarm at the College will hold up to 132 plants and the College’s horticultural students will be growing leafy greens, salads and herbs. The time it will take for a crop to grow will be up to 20% less than growing via traditional farming methods while also using less water. In addition, the amount of time between harvesting and serving can be minimised to ensure that fresh ingredients are available all year round.
“Utilising VydroFarm in a catering environment is just one of the applications through which it could make a significant contribution to providing sustainable solutions for future food production,” says Stephen Fry, commercial sales manager for HydroGarden. “Not only will it save on ingredient costs and delivery, it can become an exciting talking point, setting restaurants apart in a highly competitive market. Its scalability is perfect for restaurant designers as it can be adapted to fit almost any area. The controlled environment makes is perfect for herbs, microgreens, edible flowers and even strawberries, and the consistency of the growth and quality achieved across the crop will be higher resulting in less wastage. The ingredients will also be much fresher than those bought in as they can be harvested on-site as required.”
Parcs Restaurant is run solely by staff and students and gives aspiring chefs and hospitality students true to life experience of catering for the discerning general public. It is open during midweek lunchtimes (Mon-Fri – 12- 1.15pm last orders) and two evenings every week during term time. On Wednesdays there’s an evening a la carte menu with Chef specials (5.30 – 7pm last orders) and evenings of fine dining and themed events on Thursdays (6-7pm last orders). Parking is available in the main car park. To reserve a table please call 01733 762189.
For more information about VydroFarm and HydroGarden’s full range of hydroponic solutions, visit www.hydrogarden.co.uk, or for more information about Local Roots’ initiative call Dr Ian Tennant on 07812 901685.