Aquaponic Eel Conservation – Unit 1 Vale Lane

2015 saw us receive a £50000 strategic grant from Bristol2015 as part of the European Green Capital. This enabled us to start work on a commercial scale system (The largest of its kind in the UK- Unit 1 Vale Lane in Bishopsworth, Bristol), which we are now building for a summer launch.

The project is set to become a 40,000L facility growing Eels as part of a conservation programme partnering with Bristol Water, watercress and wasabi. The project will also pioneer work on welfare in the context of community-scale aquaponics.

In terms of community, our Vale Lane farm will work with diverse disadvantaged groups in the Bishopsworth, Hartcliffe, Bedminster and Filwood Wards. Through activities with a focus on ‘good’ food, from field to fork- and on sustainability- we connect the community with nutritious food, cooking skills, exercise, social interaction, growing skills, training, education, meaningful work and events. We bring together low and hi tech. Work can be immensely technical or simple and accessible so we are able to cater an array of experiences. We also try as much as possible to work through partnerships with existing other community groups in the area especially when we don’t have the in-house skills to support particular beneficiary needs.

Unit 1 Vale Lane sits directly on the border between two of Bristols most deprived wards, Hartcliffe and Filwood. Filwood is classified in the most deprived 1% of areas in England for Multiple Deprivation (2015). The factors of deprivation that contribute to this ranking are: Income, Employment, Education, Skills and Training, Health, Crime, Barriers to Housing and Services and Living Environment. Bristol suffers the greatest with Education, Skills and Training Deprivation with over 85,000 people living in areas of the city identified as in the most deprived 10% nationally for Education, Skills and Training. Both Filwood and Hartcliffe are in the top 10%. Limited Education, skills and training affect all aspects of lives from self confidence, career opportunities, financial stability and personal growth. As well as barriers to education and training our local beneficiaries are faced by high levels of Income Deprivation with a combined 7,600 people living in income deprived households. The Filwood ward has the most deprived households than any other ward in Bristol with 26% of households suffering from income deprivation.

The key rationale for working with food issues in these areas is that Income deprivation has a negative impact on the dietary choices of households and individuals. Financial constraints often lead to a high-carb low nutrient diet as fresh and organic food is beyond the means of these households. The adverse health effects of such diets are supported by the health deprivation statistics for both Hartcliffe and Filwood, both of which are again in the top 10% most deprived nationally for health deprivation and disability. Indicators for this are; years of potential life lost, comparative illness and disability ratio, acute morbidity, mood and anxiety orders. Filwood has multiple areas within its ward that falls within the most deprived 2% of areas nationally for Health Deprivation and disability. These stats remain a good indicator that beneficiaries are being let down around needs for diet and health. During pilots, our beneficiary groups emerged rather than being predetermined. Therein we worked predominantly with single mums wanting something they could do with their children that meant they had something to take home for tea; and retired people looking for ways to occupy themselves and to supplement their food, and with local schools. We hope to continue working with some of our original volunteers and are working with a large group of new volunteers through site build days.