LOKAL, SPACE10’s prototype of a hydroponic farm and salad bar, in Shoreditch, September 2017

LOKAL goes global

Prototype of hydroponic farm and salad bar wins over Londoners

When SPACE10 popped up in the heart of Shoreditch during the week-long London Design Fair, we decided to make the local global.

Or should that be LOKAL — the name of the tasty salad bar and hydroponic farming system we set up on the sidelines on our pop-up.

Throughout the week we gave visitors an opportunity to see the farm for themselves, to experience a range of appetising workshops, and to taste our nutritious microgreens.

Thousands of people attended SPACE10’s week-long pop-up in east London, and sampled micro-greens served at LOKAL

You see, LOKAL is the latest project from Local Food — our lab exploring and prototyping alternative methods for growing, distributing and integrating food production in our cities.

The Farm’s aim is to produce local food for the many people — and one of the methods we’re exploring is hydroponic farming.

Hydroponics enable us to grow greens three times faster than in a field, using 90 percent less water, without needing soil or sunlight, requiring much less space than traditional farming and producing much less waste.

In other words, LOKAL represents a fresh approach to food. Delicious ingredients, right where they’re grown. Because the closer the better, both for people and the planet.

SPACE10’s hydroponic farm comprises vertically stacked trays containing nutrient-enriched water, LED lights and computerised automation

We believe prototypes such as LOKAL could help develop a new, local supply chain. One that enables us to grow much more of our food within our cities. And food that tastes good, is more nutritious, pesticide-free and fresh all year round.

Our vertical farm normally lives in the basement of our Copenhagen HQ — but for our London pop-up we decided to bring it to Shoreditch.

It soon attracted a steady stream of potential diners, from peckish passersby to gourmand guests attending our daily events in the studio next door.

What they saw was the technology that makes hydroponic farming possible — the vertically stacked trays containing nutrient-enriched water, LED lights and computerised automation — plus the nutritious greens themselves, of course.

Nutritious microgreens growing on SPACE10’s hydroponic farm in east London

And if few people could resist popping their head in and taking a look, fewer still could resist tucking into one of the three salads prepared by our chef-in-residence, Simon Perez.

With ingredients including green potatoes, apple crumble and Welsh laver bread — traditionally made with seaweed — there was something for everyone.

Each salad came with a special dressing that Simon made with spirulina from Onemeal — the micro-algae that we believe will be one of the superfoods of the future.

SPACE10’s chef-in-residence created three salads using greens grown hydroponically

We’re biased, of course — and we know Londoners are a polite lot — but all week long we only heard positive comments about the food.

We also witnessed people’s interest in and fascination with the hydroponic system that produced the microgreens. And it was this curiosity that the pop-up sparked that matters most.

Right now, you see, the planet is producing food at an industrial rate — and unsustainably. It’s a system driven by huge economies of scale, but at incalculable cost to the planet.

And the inconvenient truth is that the global food production system is a significant cause of climate change and puts immense pressure on our dwindling resources, such as fresh water.

SPACE10 served thousands of salads during London Design Fair

It’s also an inefficient system, and a major cause of food waste. Something needs to change, then — and fast.

Through the Farm, we want to explore how we can produce more food with less and in a more sustainable way than today.

The next step? Introducing sensors and machine learning to the vertical stacks and connecting the data with Google Home — to enable people to “talk” to plants, in effect, and hear how they’re doing, as well as to teach children and adults alike about sustainable food.

Hydroponic farms are an excellent way to teach children and adults alike about sustainably grown food

Having taken LOKAL to London, we hope our hydroponic farm will pop-up in other cities in the future. Watch this space.