Dig for victory

Growing more food in the UK might be the answer to post-Brexit prosperity – could tech help us to be more self-sufficient?

When transport secretary Chris Grayling recently called for British farmers to simply grow more food if we leave the EU without a deal, there was widespread condemnation from critics, who viewed it as a naïve over-simplification.                                            

However, for foodies like us, the suggestion provoked a great deal of soul-searching on a personal level. What if the price of our favourite produce soars after Brexit? Can you grow olives in a window box? Will runner beans survive in my north-facing garden? How many boxes of mushrooms could I fit in the spare room?

The concept of self-sufficiency has long captivated those who would like to escape the rat race, an idea explored to amusing effect in iconic 70s sitcom The Good Life. At that time, the spectacle of Tom and Barbara struggling to raise their own piglets and distil their own booze in a suburban back garden seemed comically ridiculous. Now it’s an aspiration for many – scratch that, it’s a whole industry.

How much easier would the Goods’ life have been if they were trying the same thing today, with the agricultural tech, both large and small scale, that’s now available? Acknowledging that many people don’t have the space, time, knowhow or inclination to raise plants the traditional way, there is more tech emerging to help busy people literally put food on the table.

 With a big focus on lighting and water use, innovators have been working on making it easier and quicker for people to grow plants indoors. Probably the best known example is Growing Underground, a project that puts a new spin on the term ‘inner city farm’. Refusing to accept that a South London location should be a barrier to agricultural, two friends harnessed the power of hydroponics and low energy LED lighting to turn a former air raid shelter into a flourishing herb farm. 

Looking ahead to the many challenges facing the food industry, both in the UK and abroad, growing our food at home might become more of a necessity than a luxury.

Are you working on an agri-tech innovation or a gadget that takes the strain out of gardening? Drop our team a line at hello@foodtalk.co.uk - we’d love to hear about the seed of your idea.

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