Paul Myers and Jens Thomas
Farm Urban – Urban food Production
5pm, Thursday 20th October, Budden Lecture Theatre
Paul and Jens explore the deep-seated problems with our current food system, and the devastating effects this is having on our environment and our health. The team at Farm Urban believe that by embedding aquaponic systems (where fish and plants are grown together in a closed-loop ecosystem without soil) into the fabric of society they can engage and inspire people to connect with their environment, explore their relationship with food, and start to build a sustainable and resilient food system. They will also explore how urban food production systems can be better-integrated into modern cities.
Dr. Paul Myers is the co-founder and managing director of Farm Urban. Born and bred in Liverpool, Paul spent his formative years crawling around building sites helping his Dad to renovate houses. As well as giving him a drill-first-ask-questions-later approach to DIY, this experience gave Paul a raft of practical skills that have proved essential to the creation of Farm Urban’s systems. Paul had originally planned to study law, but starting his own block paving business allowed him to finance a gap year undertaking environmental and community conservation charity work in Central America. This precipitated a change in direction that led him to pursue a career in science. Paul gained his BSc in cellular biology from the University of Liverpool and went on to complete a PhD in epigenetics, exploring how environmental factors can affect our DNA and in turn our health and wellbeing.
Although his PhD focussed on the science that underpins healthcare, Paul realised that it would be decades before any of his work had a chance to impact on people’s lives. He also saw that there were much more pressing and solvable problems affecting people’s health and wellbeing. He therefore decided to focus his energies on a bottom-up approach to healthcare, one in which we work towards changing environments and behaviours.
Jens Thomas is co-founder of Farm Urban and is currently studying for a PhD in computational biology at the University of Liverpool. Jens has had an unconventional career path, beginning with an editorial traineeship at the New Scientist magazine after finishing a degree in chemistry. He spent a couple of years in journalism in London before the promise of fame and fortune in a band drew him up to Manchester. The fame and fortune took longer to appear than anticipated (he’s still waiting) so he went back to university to learn about computers, and then worked in quantum chemistry, molecular graphics and supercomputing at Daresbury Laboratory. A long stint in a real job proved a bit much, so he decided it was time to leave and finally get the PhD everyone assumed he already had.
Jens has travelled extensively, including five months living in a small Nepalese village, six months living alone with a horse and two dogs on a remote ranch in Patagonia and a year sailing around the world. These experiences were completely off-grid and without the trappings of modern civilisation, and led him to realise how incredibly fragile and resource-hungry our current society is. It was this realisation that gave rise to Jens’ interest in food and sustainability, culminating in the creation of Farm Urban.