The category shortlist – part of the BBC Food and Farming Awards – was revealed on BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme yesterday (March 19). The shortlisted entries include: subterranean city salad producer Growing Underground, Northern Ireland seaweed producer Islander – Rathlin Kelp and The Seed Co-operative.
Summing up the shortlist, BBC Food Programme presenter Sheila Dillon said: “So, a seed co-operative in south Lincolnshire, joins Islander Kelp and London’s Growing Underground: growing on sea and land and underneath the pavement.”
Growing Underground produces fresh micro greens and salad leaves 33m below the streets of Clapham, south London. Using hydroponic systems and LED technology, its crops are grown year-round in a pesticide-free environment below the streets of the capital.
According to the producer’s website: “Our greens are unaffected by the weather and seasonal changes, and thanks to our prime location, we reduce the need to import crops and drastically reduce the food miles for retailers and consumers.”
‘Reduce food miles for retailers and customers’
The business claims to prioritise sustainable growing practices and is working towards carbon neutral certification.
Growing Underground sells to wholesalers, local restaurants, and Londoners through Farmdrop. It also plans to supply the retail market in the near future.
Islander – Rathlin Kelp produces seaweed for manufacture into food products in a Marine Conservation area off the Rathlin coastline of Northern Ireland.
The Rathlin Island facility begins the production process by growing kelp plants in the firm’s nursery before growing the plants on around the coastline.
Once harvested, the organic kelp is kept fresh and never dried. The product is blanched to bring out its vibrant colour and to remove unnecessary salt before freezing to enable a one-year shelf-life.
Islander – Rathlin Kelp products include: noodle cut, tagliatelle cut, salad cut, minced and whole leaf. The business also makes kelp pesto with more than 60% kelp. The business supplies restaurants, specialist delis and wholesalers.
The Seed Co-operative, based at Gosberton Bank Nursury in south Lincolnshire, is a community-owned seed company that is working with a nationwide network of growers and farmers to grow open-pollinated seed.
‘Death of local and small-scale seed producers’
“Sadly, few people realise how threatened the availability of open pollinated seeds is,” according to a statement on the south Lincolnshire based organisation’s website. “Or the manifold ways in which agri-business has taken ownership of seed production, resulting in the domination of fewer and ever-larger multi-national corporations, and the death of local and small-scale seed producers.”
The organisation insists: “all of our sustainable futures depend on protecting their genetic biodiversity [of seed stocks]”.
A Community Benefit Society, the organisation is funded through shares that can be bought for £1. This year the number of shareholders reached 150.
Seeds with organic and biodynamic accreditation are sold via the organisation's website. At present, the 24ha farm produces vegetable and herb seeds with organic status but expects to receive biodynamic accreditation next year.
The judges of the Future Food Award are John Vincent, ceo and co-founder of the Leon food chain, and the Food Manufacture Group’s Mike Stones.
Meanwhile, the winner of the future food category and all the other Food and Farming Awards will be revealed at an awards celebration in Bristol on Thursday June 8.