With a professional background in environmental policy and management and 15 years in the industry, Dermot O’Regan realised the futility of trying to make change in large institutions and turned to social enterprise as a
way to establish his own impact. Aware of how unsustainable the food system is, Grow Bristol was co-founded with Peter Whiting as an urban farming enterprise to help develop sustainable ways to grow food in the city for the local community.
Grow Bristol has three aims: to produce local food within the city; to increase knowledge and awareness about growing food sustainably; and to help the local economy by providing jobs in the community including placements, volunteering and training. Looking at how to control indoor spaces to grow food, Dermot has been pioneering aquaponic and hydroponic techniques to grow crops in a mutually sustainable environmental ecosystem.
With community projects depending heavily on grants and funding, Dermot realised this route wouldn’t create a viable long term solution and so turned to social enterprise to develop a sustainable business. The Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs programme has been a big support in helping Grow Bristol reach the next phase of development, the Grow Box Farm Project. Transforming a recycled shipping container into a sustainable food production system, Grow Bristol have been engaging the community and inspiring people to grow food in small city spaces. Now able to trade, Grow Bristol’s aim is to become a fully viable business with social outcomes and engage the local community on a greater scale.
“Developing a social enterprise has allowed me to develop this urban farming project into a viable sustainable business. The Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Programme has been very beneficial; it’s good to be challenged and kept on your toes. I’ve realised that it is good to have confidence and it is possible to be successful if you listen to the right people”.