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TCL Cumbria – designers & innovators of new concepts for industry, technology, environmental, education, fitness and health sectors


A worldwide challenge to find a solution to grow food to help feed the needy generated 100’s of submissions from Asia to the USA and from Europe and a West Cumbrian inventor is the only one of 25 finalists to represent the UK.

Conceptual design proposals submitted by Whitehaven born Ian Stephenson, of tcl-cumbria, has received glowing comments from the sponsors, the Farnell Group in conjunction with the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Raspberry Pi are a UK organisation promoting teaching basic computer science in schools and developing countries, the Farnell Group are one the world’s largest distributors of electronic components.

The criteria were to use 1 square meter of space to grow food and nutrients to help feed the needy during a global disaster or for space habitations and exploration. Ian Stephenson’s submission is based on a hydroponics modular vertical farm. A 10-12 weeks programme has been mapped out that provides for making a small-scale model – to iron-out potential hiccups – before building a full-sized prototype, mostly embracing mechanical engineering skills and elements of control systems and electronics.

In his original proposal Ian stated that he intended to engage with local apprentices training organisations and college students to make the end-product available as a project, extending this approach to schools in the area.  He also wants to link up with local MP’s to raise the profile of the challenge, especially as they are promoting parallel government initiatives.

Perpetuating the High-Tech Farming Message

“Close to where I work and live a brand-new vertical farming centre of excellence is soon to be built. It will be sited near to a Further Education College, where horticulture is a subject, a nearby Apprentice Training Centre and a University Technical College, whose students are preparing for the world of work.

“The end-product of the project could be used to demonstrate alternative food growing and electronic control techniques and as a pilot for a programme of teaching and learning to all the organisations listed above; there will also be involvement of all the local schools.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

This project will offer an opportunity to produce a concept in line with some of Envision 2030 ambitions to achieve 17 sustainable development goals, which include: Zero Hunger, Good Health & Wellbeing, Sustainable Cities & Communities, Responsible Consumption & Production, Climate Action and Life On Land.

As populations in the main continue to expand, there is more demand to feed all nations and this is putting pressure on existing agricultural resources and the need to establish alternative methods of food production. High-tech farm systems have the potential to provide answers.

The concept might be used to investigate additional aspects such as energy, harvesting, food degradation or disease and replenishment. Future versions could be designed as totally enclosed climate-controlled chambers to supply and use as indoor or outdoor mobile farms.