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Developing a whole system approach to urban farming in an area of high deprivation

Walsh, Vincent (2015) Developing a whole system approach to urban farming in an area of high deprivation. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

The research presented was practice based and includes an analytical commentary and a portfolio of illustrations, photographs and diagrams. The thesis describes the exploration and testing of a whole system approach to urban food production and distribution through action research. This was implemented within an existing community characterised by high deprivation. The research drew on scientific, social, ecological, cultural and economic theories of local food production and distribution. It involved creative entrepreneurship to bring these theories into practice. The aims of the research were: 1. to design a whole system ecological approach to urban farming; 2. to establish a working model of such in an area of high social deprivation; 3. to create a centre for ecological research; and 4. to contribute to public awareness of health food and ecological systems in urban environments. The problem of ecological and social crises in relation to food production and distribution in a city context is established. Existing local alternatives to food production and distribution are critiqued. Systems thinking is used as a creative approach to overcome the challenges identified. A methodology of transdisciplinary action-research was used to experiment on the interconnectivity of an array of food production and distribution systems. A community interest company, Biospheric Foundation (CIC), was created in order to deliver the Biospheric Project. This has become an urban farm and research laboratory in inner city Salford. The analytical commentary documents the implementation of action research to tell the story of the Biospheric Project. A Portfolio of Works illustrates the implementation of the project. The various elements, systems and components have been used to create a closed system that is ecologically sustainable and adaptive. This created the first whole system approach to urban farming in an area of deprivation in Europe. An elegant design process and artistic aesthetic has been brought to the way in which the scientific systems connect to create a whole ecology, and thereby contribute new knowledge.

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