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Launch of the international Centre for Urban Agriculture in Nottingham

The Centre for Urban Agriculture is a new initiative in Nottingham University, a partnership with its academic collaborators in China and Malaysia, set up to address the issue of food security and urban agriculture.

It was launched by bioscientist Professor Neil Crout at the International Conference on Vertical Farming and Urban Agriculture at Nottingham University yesterday. Speaking to delegates, Crouch confessed to being initially sceptical that cities can ever match the efforts of large scale agriculture around the world, but said he has now been persuaded that cities can provide a valuable component of the food that their inhabitants will eat in the future.

Jubilee Campus Nottingham University.jpg

Jubilee Campus Nottingham University, location of the Centre

At the launch, Prof. Jerry Roberts, the lead for food security in the university and Pro Vice Chancellor for research, said the centre will be part of the global Food Security Programme in the university.

The Centre is partly the brainchild of Dr Chungui Lui, who joined the programme a few years ago and added vertical farming (VF) to the mix of academic research, which led to this week's conference and the setting up of the Centre.

The universitiy's interest in food stems back 100 years to the founding of the Midland Agricultural and Dairy College is one of its root sin the early 1900s at Kingston-on-Soar, then moving to Sutton Bonington in 1941.

It's much bigger now and includes a bioenergy unit. The university has invested £60m in food-related research over the last 12 years, in the areas of plant sciences, a robotic dairy unit, a veterinary school, a bioenergy school, a glasshouse complex and a root imagng unit, which uses x-rays to see how roots are performing to improve growing techniques.

Investment has also happened in Malaysia on the campus there, with the Crops for the Future Research Council launched in 2011 with £25m from the Malay government. A new research centre will focus on developing previously neglected crop species t help improve food security.

ATP AgriFood Training Centre has also been set up to enhance the skillset of people in agriculture and the agri-food industry and this will now expand into vertical farming, se en as a major growth area.

There's a Centre for Excellence for Post-harvest Biotech, to improve shelf-life and the partnership held a Global Food Security Forum in Shanghai in 2012. Another was held in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year.

The CUA is highly cross-disciplinary, including and founded by academics from the Faculty of Engineering, School of Biosciences, Environmental Technology Centre and the Economics School.

It aims to increase partnerships, to promote collaborative research, support food securitty in urban and peri-urban areas, and develop learning and training opportunities with international conferences every two years.

New technologies in hortiiculture will be examined, including vertivcal growing, improving efficiency, technology, the benefits of different light sources on plants and the effects on the socio-economics factors.

Funded by InnovateUK. PhD projects set up already include modelling for VF. The team has even demonstrated at the Chelsea Flower Show this year where they won a gold medal.

This is part of a series of articles covering the International Conference on Vertical Farming and Urban Agriculture. They include: