Scientists take future of food debate to the streets

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What food will we eat in the future and will we have to grow it ourselves?

Scientists from the University of Salford are taking to the streets to answer these questions as part of the Science in the City Festival.

The Allotment of the Future exhibition in St Ann’s Square, Manchester is a showcase of technologies and ideas for a future of urban living with an emphasis on self-sufficiency, recycling and growing your own.

Scientific adviser to the exhibition – which includes pop-up greenhouses, hydroponics, alternative crops and fermenting – is urban geographer Dr Mike Hardman, from the School of Environment and Life Sciences.

Soil tests

His colleague Dr Erinma Ochu, lecturer in digital communication, presents her ‘mushroom pod’, a mobile laboratory which shows how crops can be grown in coffee grounds and other artificial ‘soils’.

The University is also employing some hi-tech kit to offer free soil testing to gardeners and allotment-keepers.

Dr Hardman said: “People are often put off growing their own out of fear that their soil is contaminated or by poor yields due to weak soils or the wrong type of soils.

“My colleague Dr Simon Hutchinson is going to be on hand to run soil tests with instant results, a free service which the public can access all week.”


A star attraction of the 3,000sq ft exhibition is the public debut of FarmLab, a Hefce award-winning pop up experiment focusing on how we can grow mushrooms and other crops without land.

“Not many people know you can grow mushrooms in used coffee grounds,” explains Erinma. “But people have become so removed from food and its origins and that’s why we’re opening this lab as a citizen science activity.

“By showing people a novel way of growing things, we’re provoking discussion about food sources and how sustainable our current ways of feeding ourselves really are.”

“One person who came in honestly thought potatoes grew on trees, so the more we talk about these things the better.”

ESOF presentation

On Friday, July 29 there will be a Science in the City Q&A session on Twitter with Dr Hardman, sustainability expert Chris Walsh of the kindling Trust and Professor Amanda Bamford from The University of Manchester.

Dr Hardman is also a contributor at the European Science Open Forum – Europe’s largest science convention at Manchester Central,  where he co-presents a debate session Bringing nature back to cities – what’s in it for business? on Tuesday, July 26.

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