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5 Reasons Why Dublin Is Becoming One of the Best Urban Agriculture Hubs

by Dominique Bernier, Jul 24 2018

1. Engaging Projects Involving High School Students and S.T.E.M.

In 2015, Andrew’s Urban Farm helped to build the Belvedere College SJ Urban Farm Project. Since then, students are growing crops, farming fish and cultivating fungi in a glass-roofed science laboratory called the GROWlab. It features an aquaponic and hydroponic farm, as well as beehives on the rooftop. This innovative concept is teaching sustainability in the city and allows students to learn science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (S.T.E.M.) as they apply modern urban farming techniques. It is a year-round space to learn about plant life cycles, green technology, and sustainable farming practices.

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Andrew Douglas overviewing aquaponic systems
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Class in the GROWlab
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Ron Finley’s visit of the GROWlab in 2016
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Smart tech for aquaponic systems
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Vertical gardening
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Growing crops and microgreens

2. Resources to Ideate, Build and Scale Your Social Enterprise

Imagine if we could solve the world’s problems at a local level at the same rate we solve technology problems at a global level. That is the purpose of “The Ladder” — learn Design Sprints: solving real problems for local non-profit organizations and communities. The Ladder is a community of over 600 cross-functional professionals organized to help Ireland (and other countries) reach their UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 using innovation and technology frameworks.

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Design Sprints workshop in the vaults of the Dogpatch Labs
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Brainstorming on Andrew Douglas next Urban Farm project
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Workshop with professor Thomas Cooney from the Dublin Institute of Technology

3. Projects in Partnership with Local Authority, Businesses, and Real Estate Developers

The Urban Farm’s Thank Potato Project wanted to demonstrate how the humble potato connects with people from all cultures and has the ability to affect positive social changes. It aimed to show the importance of growing potatoes in cities to improve food security. Andrew explained that the potato is the fourth most important food crop in the world (after corn, wheat, and rice), but so far, it has not featured prominently in the debate on food security.

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Thank Potato at Christchurch Cathedral
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Thank Potato Exhibit, Temple Bar
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Potato Pod Concept
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Boxty House Restaurant with potato pods
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Richard Taplin showing the plan of the project
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The Bridge Foot Community Garden project site
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Gearóid Carvill (right) explaining me the Dublin Honey Project
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D1- Honey harvest from Belvedere College beehives

4. Efficient and Productive Urban Farming with Young Entrepreneurs

Martin, Jason, and Shane are urban farming entrepreneurs in their early twenties. They have founded The Market Gnomes, a bio-intensive urban farm that they operate on the campus of Dublin City University (DCU). While constantly honing and refining their skills, they supply products to the local community, farmers markets, and restaurants. Inspired by the work of Curtis Stone and Jean-Martin Fortier, they developed an efficient, productive and profitable business model that gave a second life to the DCU community garden, which was abandoned once university funds that maintained it dried out.

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The Gnomes, Andrew and me
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Ready to plant seedlings
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Martin showing the next harvest

5 . Funding Opportunities

Community-led projects need more than engagement on social media and must go beyond creating inspirational posts. To make a truly sustainable impact, they need to find the right idea for the right problem and plan a solid revenue stream attached to it, whether it is for-profit or non-profit. Once this is all done, access to some cash to back the project is essential to make things happen. Dublin City Council and the Irish government have made different types of funding opportunities and grants available for community-led projects, such as environmental or climate-related R&D, sustainable business ideas, high-potential social enterprises, and festivals. Here are some examples of the resources available:

Founder of RakeAround, globetrotter and gardening amateur.

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