Designing a sustainable, vegan, hydroponic vertical farm is the challenge that Ciara McLaughlin has set herself for her Degree Show project.
Knowing that her final year project would need to hold her interest over an entire academic year, Ciara chose something close to her heart.
Ciara, from Dumbarton, was brought up as a vegetarian and became vegan for environmental and animal welfare reasons. “As a society, we need to challenge unsustainable pressures on the environment. This means we will all have to eat less meat and dairy eventually. It’s up to the individual to make choices but it’s inevitable that the move towards plant-based diets will continue.”
Ciara’s chosen site is the Jeffrey Street Arches, at the back of Waverley Station in central Edinburgh. Formerly used as storage units, each individual space is long and dark, with no natural light apart from at the front.
The design includes a set of vertical growing beds, each fed with nutrient-rich water according to the principles of hydroponics. The space is lit by UV lights that allow the plants to grow faster than they would do in sunlight.
“This system allows the year-round production of vegetables and fruit, and uses less land and water than conventional farming,” Ciara says. “My project is about designing to make a difference and I want to challenge people to use less plastic and generally be less wasteful.”
Ciara’s design also includes proposals for a number of street food stalls, which will use the produce grown in the vertical farm.
After completing her time here at ECA, Ciara hopes to continue her studies by finding a place on a Masters course. This may be in Scotland but she’s open to venturing further afield too.
“I went on exchange for a semester to Hong Kong Polytechnic University in my third year. To anyone considering going on exchange, I say do it! It’s amazing that studying here gives you that opportunity,” Ciara says.
“I learned a lot about a different culture and Hong Kong is an amazing city. Going on exchange completely pushed me outside of my comfort zone and the experience has given me the confidence to consider studying abroad at Masters level.”