Food growing project to be developed by University and council

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Aerial shot of River Forth and Stirling

A community-led food growing project using renewable energy is to be developed by the University of Stirling and Clackmannanshire Council.   

The Living Lab will transform derelict land next to Alloa’s Forthbank Recycling Centre, with work scheduled to begin in the spring.  

Initially, the project will see the installation of a modular building for mixed methods in growing produce, along with solar panels to help grow the food and a rainwater capture system.   

The Living Lab will provide learning opportunities and food growing opportunities for people in the community.   

The council has been awarded £500,000 from the Scottish Vacant and Derelict Land Fund to develop the Living Lab. 

Professor Rachel Norman, Chair in Food Security and Sustainability at the University of Stirling, said: “We are really thrilled that this funding bid has been successful, it will allow us to take the first step toward building facilities that will benefit the local community and will strengthen further the connections with the research community here at the University of Stirling.

“Looking at the wide ranging benefits of innovative community food growing and local renewable energy use will allow us to understand how this type of system can be best used for Clackmannanshire and how it could be adapted to meet the needs of other communities.”   

It is hoped the Living Lab will eventually be scaled up to include a total of 95 hectares at Forthbank, on land owned by the council.  

This would then see the community learning, growing and energy production facility delivering a wide range of green jobs, skills, inward investment and high quality careers.  
Long-term the project would also be the focus for skills development and training as well as a local resource and a potential tourist attraction.   

Professor Rachel Norman said: “From a research perspective this provides a brilliant opportunity to further develop interdisciplinary research in this area, we have already done some mathematical modelling of the system and plan to combine that with exploring the ways that different groups within local communities could interact with this high-tech food growth system.   

“Whilst the current project is based on a single site in Clackmannanshire, the long-term aim would be to develop a holistic framework that would allow the methodologies, models and assessment methods that we develop to be used elsewhere, including in space!”  

The project will also link in with the work of the Scottish International Environment Centre. Other partners include Forth Valley College, Keep Scotland Beautiful, Scottish Water, Forth Environment Link and NHS Forth Valley’s Public Health and Nutrition Team. Some of the initial research was funded by the Leverhulme Trust and BBSRC. 

The first phase of works at the site is expected to last a year, with a completion date of spring 2024.  

The Living Lab is one of 15 projects across Scotland to receive a share of £10m from Stage 2 of the Scottish Government’s Vacant and Derelict Land Investment Programme for 2023/24.