2018 saw the first run of our secondary school Future Food Challenge, which was a great success – and a whole lot of fun!

The programme, funded by Shaping Futures, ran in collaboration with The University of Liverpool’s Institute of Integrative Biology. It aims to inspire young people to think about science and enterprise differently, challenging Year 9 students to find solutions to tackle the issue of global food security by focusing on ways to grow more food in our cities using aquaponics.

The programme started in January with Farm Urban touring local schools to deliver their TEDx talk, Fixing the Broken Food System and then inviting Year 9 students to apply to take part in a 12-week after-school programme. Following a launch event at The University of Liverpool, where participants took part in a host of workshops, including an aquaponics challenge, business masterclasses and scientist speed-dating, students returned to their schools ready to start the 12-week challenge.

Each team immersed themselves in the science of aquaponics, with their very own Produce Pod system from Farm Urban to experiment with, before forming their own startup, developing a business idea and designing and building their own aquaponic food system.

The Future Food Challenge provides students with the opportunity to gain an insight into emerging technologies, startup businesses and social enterprise, whilst developing skills in project management, leadership, finance, teamwork, communication and scientific research; all skills that are in high demand, but difficult to bring together in our current education system.

The finale event, held at our agri-lab space at the Liverpool Life Sciences UTC school, gave teams the opportunity to exhibit their work, display their systems and pitch their business idea to a panel of judges, comprised of local business leaders and university academics. It was a fantastic day and inspiring to see everyone come together and share their work; we felt immensely proud of everyone who took part.

Business ideas ranged from systems for use in primary schools, to hospitals and local cafes. The overall winners from Woodchurch High School, on the Wirral, carried out research using recent data from the Trussell Trust and spoke to local charities and churches to create a system that would provide fresh food for those accessing food banks. Speaking about their experience, the students said “We have loved our aquaponics journey from fish to free fresh food for everyone.” Not only did the programme help to develop skills and confidence, it also made the team “more aware of food problems people face and how to help them using science.”

In July we headed back out to schools to help deliver peer-led aquaponics workshops to the rest of the Year 9 students, providing the opportunity for the Future Food Challenge teams to act as Future Food Ambassadors, sharing what they had learnt over the past few months and inspiring their fellow students to think about what they can do collectively to continue to tackle global food challenges in their own communities.

We’re thrilled to have been funded to deliver the programme once again across the Liverpool City Region in 2018-19 and can’t wait to get out there and see what the next cohort of students come up with!

The Future Food Challenge 2018