An unbe-leaf-able 2021


Image of miniature cubed vertical farm on a cliff edge in Scotland
Liberty Produce GrowCube for the Dandelion Collective. Image: Dandelion 2021

It’s that time of year again – anyone else feeling like these have been coming around quicker of late but also somehow slower as if nothing has really changed in the past year?

It’s been an unbe-leaf-able year; we've managed to romaine calm and together throughout. (Yes, it wouldn’t be a Liberty end of year review without the puns.)

2021 has shown us the kind of achievements and scientific breakthroughs that are possible through investment in science and technological research but also specifically in people. The excellence we have witnessed this year in relation to vaccinations was about more than investment in science and technology – those outstanding individuals working on the vaccines are a lesson to us all on the value of investing in people and inclusion in STEM. The range of incredible women behind the development and rollout of the vaccines and the recognition of these successes in mainstream and popular culture has been inspiring for us and, we hope, for the next generation.*

As we continue to see the impact of the rollout of vaccinations globally (particularly in countries outside of G20) on the emergence of new variants, we also see connections between global vaccine disparity and the wider climate and food security crisis. At Liberty, we continually reflect on our mission and values but the pandemic, particularly the successes and limitations of the global vaccine rollout, has reinforced our central goal: to drive innovations that will enable us to meet global crop requirements equitably over the next century, without harming the planet. This year has taught us how essential it is for us all to add the word “equitably” to our central goal.

It is important to celebrate the successes from 2021 that move us slightly closer to our central mission.

As we do every year, we wanted to appreciate our team and reflect on how they’ve flourished over the past 12 months.

Singapore ‘30 by 30’


Earlier this year, we were delighted to announce our involvement in Singapore’s 30 by 30 goal (to build-up the domestic agri-food industry’s capability and capacity to produce 30% of Singapore’s nutritional needs locally and sustainably by 2030). Liberty Produce was awarded funding to jointly lead the Hybrid Advanced Research Vertical Farming Environment Systems and Technology (HARVEST) consortium with Singapore-based LivFresh, with partners James Hutton Institute and Republic Polytechnic Singapore.

The HARVEST team has been working on refining hybrid farming techniques developed in the UK, with funding from UKRI, and deploying to Singapore to support the national strategy.

This project is explicitly focused on hybrid solutions because we understand that TCEA is not yet sustainable, particularly when considering OpEx for running these facilities. This project is already demonstrating significant results; enabling us to refine optimisation in our first stage milestone towards net-zero food production.

It is another example of the strides we can make when we work in collaboration with partners. LivFresh and Republic Polytechnic have made fantastic new partners for us and the Hutton has been its usual-consistent-fantastic.

We’re excited about sharing new developments with you all in the new year.

GrowCube


Another big announcement we were able to make this year: we’ve been busy making miniature vertical farms. (Yep, we made that cube hanging out on the cliff-edge above – visit the Dandelion site for more fantastic pics and vids.) We have been working with the Dandelion team to design and engineer miniature vertical farms that will appear all over Scotland as part of the Unboxed Festival. These miniature vertical farms will be appearing as installations on sites and as teaching tools in schools across Scotland in the new year. Visit dandelion.scot for more info.

Disseminating knowledge with WUC

You may not remember this but way back in Jan 2021, we ran a three part webinar series with Writtle University College. The series featured a range of industry experts and was aimed at anyone with an interest in the future of sustainable food production. You can watch the series back here, here and here.

Unpacking Protein series

We are part way through publishing our Unpacking Protein series exploring different elements of protein. As such an essential nutrient, we have found a plethora of ways to incorporate it into our diet. So far we have published two blog pieces in this series: first “Who needs to eat meat?” which looks into the complex issue of meat consumption on a global scale and questions who the push for reduced meat-eating should be aimed at. Our second publication, titled “Myth-busting soy demand and production”, delves into the recent increase in demand for soy, why this happened, and how this impacts the environment.

In our next feature, we will be exploring the future of protein for human consumption. We won’t bug you with the details for now…

Growth & Inclusion

This time last year, we were reflecting on our own internal processes for how we practice inclusion following the global BLM movement. The work we did last year made it clear to us all that learning and growth around inclusion would be ongoing and not simply issuing a statement and some socials; we knew that the work would be ongoing. What we witnessed (and many of us directly experienced) in England following the UEFA Euro 2020[21] final, was a stark reminder of the racism and xenophobia that communities in the UK continue to face and it enabled reflective and productive discussions across our team.

As a young company, we are continually learning and growing both as individuals and as a company. Last year, we issued this statement:

We strongly believe that inclusion, diversity and egalitarianism strengthen our social fabric and are fundamental to scientific, technological and environmental transformation. Diversity and inclusion are also integral to our overarching goal of achieving sustainable agriculture and meeting our global crop requirements without harming the planet.

As illustrated by the development of the COVID vaccinations, diversity and inclusion are absolutely fundamental to scientific, technological and environmental transformation. As part of our own continued commitment to achieving this transformation, this year we embarked on our most ambitious summer internship programme to date and continued our successful ongoing partnership with the brilliant 2020 Change. We were incredibly privileged to host an outstanding summer team: Daniel Adjei, Anna Lambert, Sierra Smith, Jessica Sui and Villorthan Sunthareswaran. (Anna, Daniel and Villorthan loved it so much that they decided to stay on with us.) We also welcomed Aurelia Bezanger, Ross Lambert, Jack Nelson and Steve Wheeler to our team.


SUMMER EVENT! (Please note this "work-event-not-a-party" was compliant with COVID rules at exact moment the photo was taken.)

As a company, we have been fortunate enough to grow significantly over this difficult year across our London and Dundee sites. To accommodate our growing team, we have moved into larger offices at our Dundee site and have expanded our London offices to include a new London lab; thus, expanding our range of growth trials, engineering and tech development. This ongoing growth has enabled each member of the team to become integral to the company and its success. As a company, we are incredibly proud of how everyone has strived and succeeded throughout this year.

2021 has been a year of challenges and successes, all of which have helped us grow and set us on an exciting trajectory for 2022. To keep updated with everything we have in store, follow us on Medium, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, and subscribe to our newsletters.


Thank you for your continued support and we all wish you a very Happy New Year!



Notes

*Just a few examples of coverage across the globe:

https://people.com/health/the-women-behind-the-vaccine-meet-the-scientists-leading-the-fight-to-end-the-pandemic/

https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2021/2/compilation-women-in-science-leading-during-the-pandemic

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2283005-interview-the-women-behind-the-oxford-astrazeneca-covid-19-vaccine/

https://www.itv.com/news/2021-02-11/these-are-the-women-who-are-saving-the-world-from-covid