For the first time in the UK, vertical farming will be trialed in a prison setting as part of a strategy to aid rehabilitation by empowering prisoners and helping them develop new skills to reintegrate back into society.
The aeroponic container farm, called DROP & GROW, has been delivered by LettUs Grow to HM Prison Hewel, making it the first governmental institution in the UK to have brought controlled environmental agriculture into the prison system.
Ralph Lubowski, Governor of HMP said: “I am delighted to partner with LettUs Grow in this fantastic initiative, which will give our prisoners the opportunity, confidence and training to turn their lives around.
“Vertical farming is an innovative, emerging industry and this partnership highlights our commitment to ensuring that prisoners are skilled up to find work on release.”
Prisoners will be introduced to indoor farming practices to gain experience in a fast growing industry and train in horticulture, with the aim of helping them secure full-time employment upon release.
Billy Rodgers, Growing Specialist and Partner Support Manager at LettUs Grow, said: “We’re offering an extra level of support, on top of the usual training, for this project by putting together growing plans, managing consumables like seeds or fertilizer, and delivering at regular intervals throughout the year.
“The aim is to take pressure off Site Managers and make running the farm as easy as possible by creating a structure to follow. This means they can focus on what’s most important: upskilling, empowering and rehabilitating the prisoners.”
Although only 17 percent of ex-offenders manage to secure a job within a year of release, employment is a key pillar of the Government’s strategy for rehabilitation as it’s one of the most effective ways of improving life quality and reducing re-offending.
Prisons Minister Stuart Andrew MP said: “This innovative scheme reflects our drive to equip prisoners with the cutting-edge practical skills needed to gain employment and play a positive role in society.
“Allied to education, family ties and addiction treatment, stable work holds the key to a life free from crime and safer communities for us all.”
While the main purpose of the farm is training rather than food production, the salad, vegetables and herbs produced in the container farm will be incorporated into prisoner meals.
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