Water Works Presented to Global Audience at RRR2021

Water Works wet farming test beds - Henry Stanier

In March 2021, the Water Works partnership was honoured to be invited to present at the Greifswald Mire Centre virtual conference, RRR2021, focused on renewable resources from wet and rewetted peatlands. Jack Clough, a Research Assistant from the Sustainability Research Institute based at the University of East London (UEL), presented on the partnership’s behalf.

At RRR2021, my online presentation was a 10-minute whistle-stop tour of our project. In this short time, I introduced our wonderful project partners, the aims of the wetland agriculture demonstration farm and Fens Biosphere application as well as our current progress. 

Jack Clough UEL Presenting at RRR2021

Jack Clough, UEL, Presenting at RRR2021

Highlights for me included showing the drone imagery captured by Wildlife Trust BCN’s very own Henry Stanier showing the site development over the last year. I enjoyed showcasing all the hard work that went into last year’s planting, sharing the images of all the volunteers and work parties making such fantastic progress, planting over 50,000 plug plants in just 10 weeks last autumn!

The talk was well received, and the audience was keen for more information in the future as our project progresses, especially the greenhouse gas data that UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology will be collecting, and crop performance that UEL will be collecting. Many attendees praised the hard work of all the planting teams, and some have requested further information about the Biosphere as it develops, so there is international interest for Cambridgeshire Acre to tap into.

The conference overall was a brilliant opportunity to see the most recent developments for paludiculture/wet farming across Europe and further afield. We saw the results from projects investigating Typha, Phragmites and Sphagnum which are three of our main crops at Water Works. These have given us extra encouragement that these crops have huge potential as biomass, bioenergy and building materials for applications now and in the future. We also saw how the EU is developing new subsidies and infrastructure for wetland agriculture in the coming years, and this is something we hope the UK will approach too to drive wetland agriculture forward.

The most exciting thing for me from the conference was the quality of the multimedia resources. We had fantastic virtual field trips to Typha and Sphagnum farming sites and saw videos interviewing farmers pioneering wetland agriculture in the Netherlands and Germany. It was very useful to hear their honest feedback. One of the more exciting videos was the paludiculture tiny house, a video that showed how wetland friendly crops could be used to build buildings of the future, totally inspiring and something we’d love to do at Water Works!

Virtual excursions from the RRR2021 conference on paludiculture, hosted by Greifswald Mire Centre. 

Kate Carver, Great Fen Project Manager, was also in attendance with Lorna Parker, Great Fen Restoration Manager: 

This conference takes place every 2 years and people from all over the world interested in paludiculture attend. There are academics, scientists and practitioners, so everything you every wanted to know about wet farming in one place! Over 800 people joined the on line conference this year, which was amazingly inspirational, interesting and useful for Lorna and myself. We picked up masses of useful information ranging from data on greenhouse gas flux in paludicultural systems, to wet farming ground preparation, cultivation and harvesting techniques, wet farming crops and their applications, and the wider policy context of the moves to support the introduction of wet farming systems to protect peatlands all over the world. There is so much good work going on all over the globe.

Lorna and I attended this conference in person four years ago, an epic journey that took us 12 hours to get there and 13 hours to get back, travelling by road and plane and trains! Then we gave a presentation about the Great Fen in general, so Jack’s latest presentation was a valuable update and a close look at our fantastic wet farming project.

Jack is a Research Assistant from the Sustainability Research Institute based at UEL. He and his colleague Richard Lindsay (Head of Environmental and Conservation Research), are providing us expertise in paludicuture (wet farming) and are internationally recognised for their work in this area. Jack’s main research areas are Paludiculture, Peatland Conservation and Green Infrastructure. He is conducting research into one of our Water Works trial crops, Glyceria fluitans (floating sweet grass), which has potential as a wetland cereal crop. Jack is also studying the growth of sphagnum moss and our other wetland crops through the novel medium of Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS). He gained experience using this technology through collaboration with colleagues from Nottingham Trent University on a previous project (An Innovate UK funded sphagnum farming project with multiple partners) and will be applying his experience and knowledge of this system at the Water Works project. We're delighted to be working with them. 

TLS data capture

Left:  TLS data capture at one of the Innovate UK project areas in Manchester.  Right:  TLS data presented as a 3d point cloud from the 1st image during processing in the laser scanner software.

In 2019 the Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs and Northants, working with project partners, was awarded £1m by the People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Fund for its Water Works project.

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