The hard times actually help you to keep on going”, Dermot O’Regan.
What is your job about?
Grow Bristol is a new urban farming venture. We are developing and demonstrating innovative and sustainable ways of growing food in the city spaces of Bristol for the benefit of all its inhabitants and the wider world. Our aims as a project, business and social enterprise are to: produce high-quality low-carbon food all year round; educate and engage with people to increase knowledge and wellbeing; promote enterprise and develop employment opportunities; and work with others towards a sustainable local food economy.
We grow herbs, salad leaves and fish in a container (‘The Grow Box’), situated on a former industrial site close to the centre of Bristol. Their indoor growing systems combine raising fish with growing plants hydroponically (without soil). The fish waste provides an organic food source for the growing plants, and the plants in turn provide a natural filter for the water the fish live in. This process conserves water and generates almost no waste.
What issues do you address?
- The main challenge was growing food which was low impact and sustainable and adapted to climate change and adverse weather.
- The social problem was that people are disconnected from food, they are overcome by unsustainable food systems.
- We wanted to instill behaviour change, raising awareness and creating conversation about food.
What moved you to take action?
I had experience of environmental policy management/international development, I had travelled, lived and worked overseas. Whilst working abroad I found that often research and regulatory institutions were inefficient and bureaucratic and it moved me to make a change. I felt that I could create positive results and there was a better way to do things.
I was passionate about growing food in a more sustainable manner. This brought an interest in Hydroponics which led to the aquaponics systems I use today.
What are the obstacles that you had to overcome?
- The skills we needed to learn
- Acceptance of what we were doing
- Lack of time/money
- Raising awareness
What helped keep you going during hard times?
I am committed to what I am doing. I am an optimistic and positive person. The hard times actually help you to keep on going.
When did you first become interested in environmental issues?
I was born in Ireland but grew up in Jersey, I was fascinated by nature and animals and volunteered at Jersey zoo. I left school at 16 and went on to travel around SE Asia, whilst there I realised that we are all connected and realised the environmental crisis in the world. I returned and began studying environmental sciences. I worked at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and at the Environment Agency but nothing was exactly what I wanted to do. After leaving my job I developed Grow Bristol and worked on something which had both natural and human elements and effects.
On a scale of 1-10 how happy would you say you are?