A few years ago, the journal the New Scientist reported that, “Of Earth’s estimated 400,000 plant species, we could eat some 300,000, armed with the right imagination, boldness and preparation. Yet humans, possibly the supreme generalist, eat a mere 200 species globally”. And in your local supermarket you’ll likely have access to less than 40 of those.
This means there are up to 299,800 delicious and nutritious plant species that we are missing out on. This is crazy but sadly understandable. Traditional farming requires plant species to be selected for their weather and pest resistance, and ease of being intensively farmed and transported. There is a lot of tasty fruit and veg varieties out there which don’t get through this selection process.
But this is where hydroponics and controlled environment agriculture come in. At Square Mile Farms we are combining centuries-old hydroponic growing techniques (the technique of growing plants in nutrient rich water, but without soil) with modern lighting and sensor technologies to create a perfectly controlled environment in which to grow leafy greens and herbs. And we are building these farms all across London to provide customers with super fresh and nutritious produce, starting with our concept farm in Paddington. You can read more about our farm in Paddington here.
Given that we can tailor growing conditions to the needs of a specific plant, and because we remove the need for plants to be selected for their weather and pest resistance, we could in theory grow almost anything. Now, we currently only have one farm, but we've got some space for experimentation to accommodate the passionate foodies and the more curious amongst us.
So, to begin our quest to help broaden what we eat, how about we start with growing some lesser known leafy greens: amaranth, chickweed, sweet cicely, purslane, wood sorrel, oyster leaf… what do you think? Do you have a preference? Any other suggestions? If we can get the seeds we will try growing it!
We love having visitors, so come and have a tour of the farm. Just click on this link and register for a visit.
We are also running a series of events, seminars and workshops at our home in Paddington focused on the themes of food, nutrition and sustainability. Register here to be kept up to date with these, or visit our events page here.