The contribution that living walls could make to the UK's future food supply was the topic of the latest meeting of the Kent-based Rural Focus Press Group.
Meeting at Hadlow College, the group - comprising academics, environmentalists and rural representatives - discussed how living walls could create new career opportunities for the UK’s horticulture industry.
UK Grower Awards judge and fruit industry veteran John Guest who runs The English Apple Man website suggested that vertical walls could be used to help lower the temperature of farm buildings or to house companion plants that could ward off pests, adding: "As we get a greater understanding of how these things fit in to the circle of life there will be greater opportunities – things you wouldn’t have thought of."
Tonbridge and Malling Friends of the Earth co-ordinator Howard Porter said: "The requirement for intensification is going to make it inevitable for horticulturalists – they are going to have to look at vertical gardening."
The possible pitfalls of living walls were also raised, including their expense and the requirement for ongoing maintenance. Professor Chris Atkinson of the University of Greenwich’ Natural Resources Institute said: "The technology exists but it’s expensive. At the moment, it’s difficult to know whether they would really be a food-producing activity or something that’s much more engaging – such as helping people to better understand food production."