We are always seeking innovative ways to enrich the learning experience for our young people with special educational needs and learning differences. Currently all our teaching relies on traditional soil based horticulture so we are delighted that the Heathrow Community Fund, with match funding support from Heathrow Airport Ltd., has generously awarded us a grant to set up a new state-of-the-art vertical soilless growing system at our learning and Development Centre.
Over the next 2 months, with support from Aponic, we will build a new poly-tunnel to house 60 vertical 5ft tall growing towers. Our young people will plant out each tower with 15 mint plugs that will be grown under special lights in heated environment. The plants will fed by a delivery system that sprays the plant roots with a special mix so that they get the correct quantities of nutrients and water and they also get good oxygen circulation and absorption to aid fast, healthy growth.
We can then turn acreage into volume to expand our growing area because we can grow long rows vertically upwards in the footprint of a single plant. The 90% water savings, massively reduced labour costs and a disease free environment make it easy to turn unproductive land, in our case 50m2 of concrete car park, into a low input / high value output, low carbon growing space.
Once our mint plants rapidly grow to maturity they will be harvested and we estimate we can initially produce 2,500 grams of fragrant, high quality mint daily.
The aromatic compounds in mint are aromatic, refreshing and unique. They also degrade quickly, which means that mint has a shelf life. By the time a restaurant or bar often receives mint, it’s lost that freshness and quality but not with freshly harvested mint So we are currently investigating how best to sell this unique locally grown product to local businesses in and around the airport, promoting the circular economy and reducing food miles, for use in restaurants, bars and even a local gin distillery as a key botanical!