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Farming for prisoners

Sustainable Bristol student start-up branches into prison partnership to aid rehabilitation
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Charlie from LettUs Grow

A P.E.A. Award-winning farming company, founded by University of Bristol alumni to fight the climate crisis, has introduced its environmentally friendly methods to a prison setting for the first time in the UK.

The trial is part of a strategy to aid rehabilitation by empowering prisoners and helping them develop new skills to reintegrate back into society.

Faring for the future

The seed for LettUs Grow was sown in response to the growing threat of climate change and global food insecurity.

Aeroponics is a method of growing plants without soil, in a nutrient-rich mist. The team developed a vertical and indoor farming system that grows plants suspended in the air using a mist to deliver nutrients.

The result is consistent, climate-resilient year-round harvests without fertile land or pesticides – and using 95% less water.

Training for prisoners

LettUs Grow recently delivered an aeroponic container farm, called DROP & GROW, to HM Prison Hewell in Worcestershire.

Prisoners will be introduced to indoor farming practices, which will lead to experience in a fast-growing industry and training in horticulture, with the aim of helping them secure full-time employment upon release.

‘In the first half of this year alone, an estimated £22 million worth of fruit and vegetables has been wasted directly because of workforce shortages in agriculture.

‘The program we’re supporting at HMP Hewell trains people in highly skilled work in a growing industry. Unlike typical agricultural work, indoor farming employment is much more stable as it’s year-round and not ruled by the seasons. It’s a unique development activity for prisoners, providing an introduction to an industry where there are good opportunities for career development, whilst contributing to their own food production in the prison as well.’

Co-founder of LettUs Grow

Skills and employment

The main purpose of the farm is training rather than food production. The salad, vegetables and herbs produced in the container farm will be incorporated into prisoner meals.

The prisoners will learn plant husbandry skills, how aeroponics works, how to use a farm management software platform and indoor farm standard operating procedures, as well as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) and Food Safety.

They will also be taught how to grow plants with state-of-the-art ultrasonic aeroponic technology.

‘This innovative scheme reflects our drive to equip prisoners with the cutting-edge practical skills needed to gain employment and play a positive role in society.

‘Allied to education, family ties and addiction treatment, stable work holds the key to a life free from crime and safer communities for us all.’

Prisons Minister

Life after prison

Only 17% of ex-offenders manage to secure a job within a year of release.

Employment is a key pillar of the government’s strategy for rehabilitation as it’s one of the most effective ways of improving life quality and reducing re-offending.

This is the first governmental institution in the UK to have brought controlled environmental agriculture into the prison system.

‘I am delighted to partner with LettUs Grow in this fantastic initiative, which will give our prisoners the opportunity, confidence and training to turn their lives around.

‘Vertical farming is an innovative, emerging industry and this partnership highlights our commitment to ensuring that prisoners are skilled up to find work on release.’

Governor of HMP

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