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QUT free resources assist people in growing their own produce

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While lettuce prices remain high, the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) is offering free resources to help households and communities grow their own produce using digital technology.

Developed through a residential circular food economy at Yarrabilba as part of a three-year Food Agility CRC project led by QUT and Lendlease, the resource collection includes everything from growing food and composting to making water and methane sensors from e-waste.

Associate Professor Carol Richards from the QUT Centre for a Waste Free World and the QUT Centre for Agriculture and the Bioeconomy is a food and agricultural sociologist specialising in sustainable food systems. She said the resources aim to help communities, schools and other institutions build sustainable food systems that helped tackle global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste and pollution.

“This approach moves away from the ‘make, take, waste’ approach to dealing with materials in favour of a system that keeps resources circulating for longer,” Richards said.

“The circular food economy is designed to not only to divert food from landfill, but address the major food security and sustainability challenges of food waste, greenhouse gas emissions, access to nutritionally adequate food, and healthy diets. Digital technology, such as sensors, internet-of-things, data analysis and automation can help enable, enhance or accelerate the change from linear practices to a new circular economy.”

All resources, including code for building an incentivisation app, and videos on how to make sensors from e-waste, are available online for free.

Richards said the developed methodology for building a circular food economy was based on a prototype at Yarrabilba State Secondary College and could be replicated at any size.

“Teachers and students worked together with QUT researchers and Lendlease to design a system where students and the community could drop off kitchen scraps, use an app to record contributions and offer rewards for participation,” Richards said.

“At the school, kitchen scraps were composted, and students learned how to make garden beds, then grow food in the composted material. Students were exposed to the ‘internet of things’ by using methane sensors made from e-waste to monitor the health of the compost. The Yarrabilba project provided a new and scalable model for urban agriculture that other Australian towns and cities can apply.”

New technologies and research outcomes were expected to be embedded into Lendlease development plans, including those that would see the population of Yarrabilba grow to 45,000 by 2041.

Richards will join the Contributing to a sustainable city, starting with your home and backyard forum at the Sustainability and Science Showcase on Sunday 19 June from 11am – 12pm AEST at Queensland Museum.

On the day, QUT will also display its Virtual Reef Diver citizen science project to record, analyse and predict coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef, as well as host other sustainability activities.

The showcase is hosted by the Office of the Queensland Chief Scientist and the Brisbane Sustainability Agency to highlight the latest research, actions and ideas to help Queenslanders do their bit to protect the planet.

For more information on the showcase, click here.

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