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UK: Newcastle's first hydroponic VF will contribute to sustainable food culture

Food for the Planet is a Sustainable Food Places campaign which looks at how we can transform our food and farming systems to embrace agroecological production, sustainable diets, and an end to food waste. As part of this campaign in Newcastle, Food Newcastle has been along to Byker-based Fyto, Newcastle’s first and only hydroponic vertical farm, to explore how their approach to growing fits into Food Newcastle’s mission for sustainable food culture in our city.

Food Newcastle headed to Hoults Yard, a business village just a 10-minute drive from Newcastle’s City Centre. Walking around Hoults Yard, you’d find yourself wondering how a ‘farm’ exists here. Nestled inside the industrial units, the technology of this style of farming allows for crops to grow in locations that conventional farming can’t. The produce grow in shallow trays, under LED lights, in a controlled environment to eliminate the need for pesticides. Inside, it is a treasure trove of herbs, garnishes, and micro greens, with a variety of usual tastes – their Lemon Verbena tastes of lemon sherbet.

Fyto’s purpose is to transform Newcastle’s food system as much as they can. Speaking with one of the founders, Greg, he expressed, “we thought it was absolute madness that food like herbs were being transported from Egypt and Kenya… our goal is to get food not shipped all over the world, and it is higher quality”. Because of this, they pride themselves on being ‘hyper-local,’ built on the ethos that no food should travel further than it needs to. Fyto believes this is the solution to the environmental impacts of modern global food production, from transport emissions and excessive plastic packaging to soil degradation and food waste.

Generally, the small amount of land needed for vertical farms means food can be grown nearer to cities, reducing the burden on our natural resources to get produce to the plate. Shortening our supply chains and embracing this hyper-local model of food production not only drastically reduces food miles, but it improves the quality and nutrition of the food too. Food begins to lose its nutrients as soon as it is picked, so imagine the impact this will have on the nutritional value of produce that have traveled halfway across the world.

Greg hopes that bringing food production geographically closer to the community will also increase people’s connection to what they are buying and eating, believing that this sort of model of food production should be on every street corner. By connecting food producers with their customers, we can enhance knowledge and awareness of what goes into producing our food, the challenges involved, and the impact of throwing it away. Greg also expressed how working so closely with their customers enables them to address needs, adapting their inventory of produce to suit the demands of the community they work with.

From their plant-based packaging to using Bud Courier’s zero-emission delivery, sustainability is at the heart of Fyto, and they even empower their customers to grow their own produce by supplying growing units. 

For more information:
Food Newcastle

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