FabLab Nerve Centre Launches Aquaponic Digital Farm

FabLab Nerve Centre Launches Aquaponic Digital Farm

Northern Ireland’s first ever ‘FabFarm’ has launched in The Playtrail, through an exciting partnership with students from the Playtrail and Ardnashee School and College and Nerve Centre’s FabLab in Derry~Londonderry.

Funded by Comic Relief, almost 100 young people will be involved in the region’s first social enterprise aquaponic digital farm, from initial concept, design to build and maintenance.     

The FabFarm combines innovative Aquaponic farming methods, of using water and fish for vegetable growing, with new digital fabrication techniques and equipment.

Using state of the art digital fabrication equipment from the Nerve Centre’s FabLab, students will receive hands-on training and experience in a range of digital design and making techniques that will allow them to design, build and operate an Aquaponic farm. The Aquaponic units will be created and built by the students using a range of FabLab equipment such as 3D printers, CNC Routers, and Laser Cutters. Students who successfully complete the training programme will be awarded an OCN accreditation in Digital Fabrication.

Speaking at the launch in The Playtrail, John Peto, Director of Education at Nerve Centre said: 'This is a fantastic opportunity for young students at the Playtrail and Ardnashee College to advance their skills in digital technology and design, programming and electronics, all of which will equip them for the modern workplace. Through the project they will also taught about the importance of food production, Social Enterprise and technology, in a very hands on way. We don’t know of anyone else in the world that is doing this yet – not only operating an Aquaponic Farm but designing and building it themselves, we are very proud that this is happening here in Derry before anywhere else.'

As part of the project a newly created Social Enterprise will be developed by the young people, allowing them to sell the produce from the farm to local businesses. Students from the Playtrail and the school will develop skills in social entrepreneurship, business and marketing, as well as the digital skills. As the project begins, local restaurant, The Sooty Olive, has already signed up to be the FabFarm’s first customer.

Sean Harrigan from the restaurant is delighted to be involved in the new project. He said: 'The exciting FabFarm project and new aquaponic system will allow us to develop further our relationship with the Playtrail, with the opportunity of increasing more quality local produce for use in the restaurant'.

The FabFarm is just the latest innovation for the multi award-winning Playtrail project, and adds a new dimension to the their work with young people with Special Needs:

Mark Roberts, Director at the Playtrail welcomed the project saying: 'We are very excited about this unique and innovative project. We look forward to our new partnership with the Nerve Centre and developing further the partnership Liberty Consortium has with the Sooty Olive restaurant. The FabFarm will allow us to increase the amount and variety of produce grown through the new aquaponic system, open up new and different markets, and develop social enterprise activities and increase skills and qualifications for young people on our Schools programme and the Big Lottery Funded ACT project'.

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