Leader of the Cambridge Sustainable Food Hub project explains the plan
by Stephen Hewitt
On Saturday 30 September 2017, at a fair organised by Daily Bread in Cambridge, Duncan Catchpole, managing director of The Cambridge Organic Food Company Ltd and leader of the the Cambridge Sustainable Food Hub project, was introducing the concept of the hub to visitors to his stall.
He explained that the Cambridge food hub will be for storage and distribution of food that has come from local farmers and is being "produced sustainably".
Schools, colleges, restaurants, the hospital and others will be able to buy food through the Hub. Food will also be distributed to local low-income families at discounted rates, he said.
The Hub will have a shop and a café and include incubator kitchen units available on affordable terms. It will also be an educational resource to which "a coach load of kids can come along". And it will have a swimming lake next to it.
He was asking everyone who supported the idea to write their name on his list. He explained that this list helps with grant applications and on 17th October he will give a presentation in Brussels to the European Commission.
He also mentioned that he is attending a reception in parliament on 31 October, although this is related to the Living Wage week which starts in November. He is a "keen advocate" of The Living Wage Foundation and his company was the first food business near Cambridge to be approved, even before Daily Bread.
He talked of a 10,000 square foot building. As to what it might look like, he showed people a brochure with a picture of the Sophi Taylor building in NIAB's innovation farm in Histon. The roof will be south-facing and covered in photo-voltaic cells.
Refrigeration will be entirely passive, using no energy. He said that this can be achieved with a storage area underground. The absence of dairy from the Hub will mean that the refrigeration temperature limits are less critical.
"We've been trying to do this for about four years now", said Duncan. The idea of the food hub was born around October 2013 when a meeting in Ross Street Community Centre split into eight focus groups. When they came together again, five of the eight groups had independently produced the idea of a food hub.
Now there is a concrete proposal and a strong possibility that the hub will be located near Hinxton. He mentioned Smithson Hill as a partnership between Russell Smiths Farms, who are the largest organic farms in Cambridge, and Hill developers.
They are offering the land and half of the money, he said. Asked if this was a donation, he replied that they would have ownership and there would be a lease.
The brochure said "The proposed site for the Food Hub is at Hinxton Grange, about 5 miles south of Cambridge. It will be located within a new AgriTech park development, which is being proposed by Smithson Hill".
“The key partners in the Food Hub project are Cambridge Sustainable Food, The Cambridge Organic Food Co. and Smithson Hill. Cambridge Sustainable Food is responsible for Cambridge's inclusion in the Sustainable Food Cities network. We will be working with Sustainable Food Cities to help other UK cities to develop Food Hubs of their own.”
There were boxes of crisps called Savoursmiths on the stall. The brochure continued "Robert Smith's family have been farming at College Farm in Duxford since 1938" and explained that Savoursmiths are the family's own brand, which they produce using their own crops.
Cambridge Organic Food Company (COFCO) delivers organic food boxes to your door. Duncan said that about half his fleet of delivery vans is electric.
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