ESS Introduces Hyper-Local Sourcing at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom

07 November 2022

ESS, the Defence, Marine and Aerospace sector of Compass Group UK & Ireland, has created an organic garden on site at the Defence Academy where it delivers Soft FM services.

The one-acre plot is being used to produce a range of vegetables and herbs, supporting the company’s focus on increasing the volume and diversity of plants in its menus.

Working with the client, the ESS team has converted an area of previously unused land into a hive of growing activity. The site is managed by two gardeners and incorporates ground and raised beds and polytunnels housing crops including tomatoes, courgettes, beans, leeks, spring onions, beetroots and pumpkins.

The ingredients produced are being used by chefs in a new ESS outlet dedicated to promoting sustainability and wellbeing. 

There are exciting plans to expand the variety of food being grown over the coming months and into next year.

ESS is in the process of obtaining Soil Association organic certification for the garden, demonstrating its commitment to working with nature. The techniques in use include inter-planting, creating appealing environments for beneficial species and incorporating plants to attract pollinators. A large no-dig has generated a rich growing area without disturbing the existing soil.

The company collects food waste from its catering outlets and uses this to generate compost to service the site.

The Defence Academy delivers world-class professional defence and security education to students from the Ministry of Defence, wider government, UK industry and overseas. Its role in training future leaders makes it an ideal establishment to model this innovative approach to addressing some of the environmental challenges around food supply.  

In future the team aspires to grow more produce, enabling it to supply to more outlets. There are also plans in place to introduce an apiary and build Incredible Edible gardens throughout the estate, enabling the site population to collect their own fresh ingredients.

Dr Vincent Walsh, Circular & Regenerative System Designer, supported the project and commented:

“This project clearly demonstrates how you can grow a wide range of crops for culinary use on a small patch of land, while also being sustainable. The fact ESS is also using this plot as the foundation for a range of other environmental projects, including zero-waste systems, is fantastic.”

Ryan Flaherty, Serco’s Contract Director at the Defence Academy, commented:

“We are proud that our supplier partners ESS have delivered this exciting and innovative project.  It combines two key areas, sustainability and wellbeing, which are key focus areas for Serco, both at the Defence Academy and across all of our contracts. The market garden is a tangible example of a practical solution that could be rolled out across the Defence estate. As a key part of a suite of projects we are supporting at Shrivenham, we look forward to its continued success and development.”

Bob Gray, Managing Director – ESS Defence, Marine and Aerospace, commented:

“Introducing the organic garden at the Defence Academy is an exciting step for us. We’re passionate about great food and the opportunity to grow high quality fresh ingredients on site is one that the team has embraced. The work also supports our Net Zero commitments, encouraging the use of locally sourced products and eliminating delivery mileage.”