Stepping inside one of Food Ladder's cool, leafy growing systems is a stark contrast to the dry, inhospitable conditions outside. In the Northern Territory's Katherine, Ramingining and Tennant Creek communities, these climate-controlled structures produce enough food to supplement the diets of up to 250 local people with fresh, nutritional fruit and vegetables.
"We have adapted commercial production technologies to suit the harsh conditions in which we're working – it's a lot more than simply a greenhouse," says Food Ladder CEO Kelly McJannett, who has also helped to set up systems in India, Uganda and Bhutan. "They're specifically designed to withstand challenging weather in the areas they're needed most – remote, disadvantaged communities facing food insecurity and a lack of access to fresh, locally grown produce."
Each climate-controlled system comprises a cyclone-resistant galvanised steel structure and a polycarbonate encapsulating shield, while solar panels with battery storage power and water-treatment technologies mean the systems can operate in arid and isolated conditions.
The organisation is taking a multifaceted approach to tackling food insecurity by not only growing food and generating employment – more than 600 jobs have been created to date – but also by delivering training opportunities to local school students. In October 2019, Food Ladder launched an education program in Melbourne's Werribee South to provide nutritional food and job-ready skills to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.