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Jun 17, 2020

Dundee community groups supporting vulnerable locals with vertically grown veg

Community groups across the Dundee area have been delivering fresh produce to local residents who have been most heavily impacted by the recent COVID-19 pandemic. The produce has been grown by IGS in Scotland’s first vertical farm based at the James Hutton Institute in Invergowrie.

Written by

Georgia Lea

IGS grows purely for R&D purposes, to develop an ever-wider range of crops for its customers. Normally IGS would recycle this produce by letting staff take it home or turning it into compost. However, inspired by the Scottish Government’s call for business to support communities during lock-down, IGS’ CEO David Farquhar recognised that the salads, herbs and vegetables it was growing could help support local community members struggling to access fresh produce through the COVID-19 pandemic. Working with Dundee City Council, IGS’ Polly Purvis led the effort to partner with local charities.

Chief Technical Officer Dave Scott and his R&D team at Invergowrie immediately offered to help. As Dave explains: “With local shops and supermarkets facing challenges with their supply chains and sourcing fresh produce, the team was keen to share the produce we’re growing to help those who have been most impacted by the pandemic. It was a logistical challenge for us but that’s the sort of thing we love to tackle and the team here worked really hard to figure out how we could pick, pack and deliver our produce in a safe, convenient and hygienic way.”

Supported by Faith in Community Dundee, IGS has now been providing local people and community projects with fresh produce from its high-tech vertical farm, which is controlled by state-of-the-art remotely accessed clouds software, since the middle of May. 

Jacky Close, Director of Faith in Community Dundee, commented: “At this very challenging time, when people are being pushed into poverty, we’re very grateful for all support to the Food Insecurity Forum, a forum of 24 grass-roots projects who provide emergency food across the city. The fresh salad provided by IGS is very much appreciated and is quickly distributed each week by different projects. Fresh food is always a welcome addition to any food parcel.”

Sohini Mukhopadhyay from the Dudhope Multicultural Centre, one of the groups receiving fresh produce, commented: “We are a multicultural community centre, based in Dundee, and we work with some of the most vulnerable members of our community. Due to COVID-19 we haven’t been able to hold our usual lunch clubs, leaving many of our elderly members unable to access nutritious meals.

“With support from Faith in Community, the Scottish Government and Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education, we started a new programme and are now delivering meals and groceries to our most vulnerable members three times a week. We provide two portions on each delivery day so they can eat the second portion the following day. It has meant that we can be sure that our elderly members can keep having nutritious food and can stay well during this time.”

At the heart of the operation to deliver fresh produce to vulnerable community groups across the city is local charity Alexander’s Community Development. The charity, which provides hands-on training for both young people and adults of all ability and trades, has taken charge of collecting the produce from IGS at the Hutton and distributing it to local beneficiaries.

Kara Swankie, Centre Manager for Alexander’s Community Development, added: “The team at ACD has been delighted to step up and support our city and its residents during such a tough time. The addition of fresh produce has been very welcomed by the projects we support. We are excited to begin exploring opportunities with the city and IGS over the coming weeks as the partnerships evolve.”

IGS’ CEO David Farquhar observed “I am very excited that fresh produce from one of our facilities has found such an enthusiastic reception in the community: food quality must always come first for our customers. This is a real vindication of all the efforts of the team and the fact that they were so keen to put their shoulders to the wheel to overcome the challenges posed by the lock-down is so typical of the culture we’re building here at IGS.”

Sohini Mukhopadhyay (L) from the Dudhope Multicultural Centre collecting produce from IGS’ R&D Technician, Andris Sprukts (R), at the Invergowrie vertical farm.
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