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Biosphere Magic For The Banks Of The Irwell

Neil Sowerby on the important and tasty experiment

Written by . Published on May 24th 2013.


Biosphere Magic For The Banks Of The Irwell
 

ONE accusation aimed at Manchester International Festival is that, gloriously creative in full bloom, it doesn’t lay down roots in the city. Another, that it bypasses the Salford side of the Irwell. 

Visitors will also see two ingenious indoor aquaponics systems, which use nitrate-rich water from fish tanks to fertilise salad and herb crops, before reusing the water in the tanks. 

The Biospheric Project sweeps all this aside. This groundbreaking urban farm experiment set up in Irwell House, a disused former printworks on East Philip Street, Salford, looks set to be one of the stars of the 2013 Festival ... and its farm shop, 78 Steps (now that’s what we call sustainability), a valuable legacy for the local community.

Disused former print worksDisused former print works

The MIF has announced a huge programme of free events around this fortnight-long open house. The first public tours of this innovative research hub.part-farm, part-lab, start on Saturday, July 6, along with an in conversation event with project director Vincent Walsh. 

Wythenshawe boy Walsh has been responsible for a number of community projects in places such as Ethiopia and Nigeria, developing skills around agroforestry, permaculture and facilitating communities to overcome environmental challenges. His PhD research at Manchester Met on socio-ecological urban development was recently chosen as one of the100 Big Ideas that will change the future by the Research Council UK.

Now, where'd i leave that bloody trowelNow, where'd I leave that bloody trowel

Walsh heads the Biospheric Foundation – a group of young researchers who have a vision to change the way cities and communities interact to create a more sustainable way of living.  

Their local fresh food distribution scheme, WholeBox, is already in action and July sees the opening of their own grocery shop, 78 Steps, which will sell locally grown fruit and vegetables and organic wholefoods. The shop will eventually be stocked with crops grown at the Project, taking the distance between production and distribution of the food to just 78 short steps. The plan is for the project hub to continue as a research centre.

BiosphereBiosphere

What’s on offer at The Biospheric Project for the public? 

Visitors during MIF will have a glimpse into the inner workings of this interconnected agricultural complex inside Irwell House, with indoor and outdoor growing experiments in their early stages, including forest and roof gardens, vermiculture, bee hives, chickens and mushroom systems.  

Visitors will also see two ingenious indoor aquaponics systems, which use nitrate-rich water from fish tanks to fertilise salad and herb crops, before reusing the water in the tanks. One of the systems pumps water from fish tanks on the first floor to grow leaf crops in rooftop polytunnels. The second is a test Bio-productive Climatic Façade system – a ‘Greenius Wall’ – designed to maximize bio-productivity by using dormant space on the sides of buildings.

These prototype systems have been developed in collaboration with MIF sponsors, BDP and Siemens. The aim is to develop a fully functional vertical farm system which could be replicated on a larger scale using available spaces in cities in the near future.

The clever bitThe clever bit

Public events include a range of tours, talks, films, how-to workshops and family sessions which take in the full spectrum of ideas behind the Project, from science and environment to food and farming, communities and the future of our cities. Leading figures from these fields will contribute to discussions about the issues raised, each chaired by an expert from MIF’s family of sponsors. Workshops in bee-keeping, mushroom-growing, permaculture and planting offer a more hands on experience for visitors. 

Tours of the site will begin with a guided walk from Festival Square (Albert Square) along the River Irwell, in association with Manchester Guided Tours. Guests on the tours will learn about the historical context of food and the city and visit the different spaces of the Project. Salford-based head chef Robert Owen Brown (The Mark Addy) will be creating tasty morsels inspired by the variety of crops and ingredients grown on site.

The Biospheric Project, Irwell House, East Philip Street, Salford M3 7LE. Fri July 5-Sun July 21. Free admission; booking essential. Tickets available from Friday, May 24. Visit mif.co.uk/biosphericproject

For full details of events, including talks, tours, workshops and The Biospheric Project Family Fun Weekend visit http://www.mif.co.uk/event/the-biospheric-project

The Biospheric Project is commissioned by MIF Creative and Salford City Council. Produced by Manchester International Festival and The Biospheric Foundation. Supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and players of People's Postcode Lottery.

 

Work in progress in May 2013Work in progress in May 2013

Work in progress in May 2013Work in progress in May 2013


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9 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Jo AllanMay 25th 2013.

would of loved tickets for this..already sold out...it's a shame MIF didn't seem to promote it well in advance of the ticket release...

GrammarplantMay 25th 2013.

They seemed to promote it so badly it sold out. Isn't 'would have' not 'would of'

Simon TurnerMay 25th 2013.

Maybe the big launch event in February and then tens of thousands of MIF brochures everywhere had something to do with people hearing about it and buying up all the tickets Jo?

1 Response: Reply To This...
MancBMay 28th 2013.

Good point, Simon. People always complain about tickets selling out when they don't keep their ears or eyes open.

Biospheric FoundationMay 26th 2013.

There are still tickets remaining for the following: 8 Free Public Talks from leading experts. alturl.com/kbysd… Principles Of Permaculture workshop. alturl.com/z6nfw… Family Fun Weekend. alturl.com/ewqyn…

Smithfield WineMay 28th 2013.

even would've cud av bin gud Jo

SalfordantJune 14th 2013.

Are there any other times/days where the project is open for people to come and have a look? Outside of the MIF fortnight I mean? I used to live round there and it would be good to go and see it - tried to book on to some of the tours and talks but they've all gone. Sad times :(

Margaret MorrisJuly 21st 2013.

Interesting concept but the execution is not going too well. Plants grown hydroponically look far from healthy. Not sure which varieties were being grown in the pockets as none were labelled. We picked up a list of varieties and noticed climbing French beans and several varieties of tomato that I have grown. All these varieties make big plants and require more space and nutrients than could possibly be provided in a small pocket. Did nobody do research? Also I hope that the plants outside were being watered as they looked to be suffering in the heat when we visited last Wednesday. I hope there are some real gardeners who know about plants somewhere on the project

Reader HubbleJuly 22nd 2013.

You can always volunteer Margaret! I bet they would love your advice. Its a hands on project :)

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