GrowUp is an urban farming business who produce fresh fish, salads and herbs in cities using a combination of aquaponic and vertical growing technologies. Founded at the start of 2013 by Kate Hofman and Tom Webster, GrowUp aims to become the market leader in commercial aquaponic urban farming in the UK. Aquaponics, a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture, is recirculating system where water is cycled from fish tanks through plants and back into the fish tanks. The plants absorb the waste nutrients in the water, and in turn, filter and purify the water for the fish. By combining aquaponics with vertical growing, GrowUp farms are designed for high-density and high-yield commercial food production in city centres. GrowUp built their first farm, The GrowUp Box in 2013 following a successful Kickstarter campaign where they raised over £16,500 from more than 300 people. This year they’re working on building London’s first commercial-scale aquaponic urban farm.
Do you think projects like this will shape the future of urban farming and eventually allow cities to eventually feed themselves?
Hard work! It isn’t free money – we did a lot of planning to make sure we were offering rewards that people would be interested in, and we made a video and a pitch where we gave as much information as we could about the project. We kept up a rigorous and well-planned social media campaign and kept our backers up to date with what we were working on.
What community benefits does this bring to the surrounding area? Do you actively involve the local community?
The GrowUp Box is a unique tool for public engagement and education in city centres about the sustainable production of food. The Box has been used to run workshops and talks for pupils aged between 5 and 18 as well as university students. It has also been used to host corporate groups for private tours and discussion groups about the potential for urban farming in sustainable cities of the future.
The GrowUp Box showcases the potential that aquaponics offers for sustainable commercial urban farming. Across the summer of 2013 the GrowUp Box was open to the public on weekends to give people a chance to see how this technology works (and tastes!).
By bringing food production closer to people, we significantly cut down on transportation, refrigeration and packaging. Growing food is hard work, and not everyone who lives in London wants to grow their own food – but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t focus on educating people about where fresh food comes from and what it takes to produce it. We care about the food that we eat, and we think that everyone living in cities should have access to healthy, fresh and environmentally positive produce – even if they don’t want to grow it themselves.
Have you deviated in anyway from your original goal?
When we started the business we agreed on our core values:
• We care about people, profit and planet.
• We can Do Good and Make Money.
• We search for the best environmental solution available at the time – and then revisit those decisions regularly to see if a better option is available.
• We think learning about, and eating, good food is something everyone should get the chance to do in cities.
• We can produce food at commercial scale in an ecologically sustainable way.
• We can improve the level of food knowledge / education and enthusiasm in cities.
• We should grow food in a way that can reduce the environmental impact of food production for cities.
• Our commercial farms can generate jobs as part of London’s green economy.
• Our systems and processes can lead innovation in urban food production.
Because we’ve defined those values, as long as what we’re working on is being driven by those values then we know we’re on the right track, even if we might be doing something we weren’t expecting!
What’s the future of GrowUp?
We’re working on building London’s first commercial-scale urban aquaponics farm. Watch this space!
What did I forget to ask you that I should have?
It would be pretty amazing if we’d learned how to mind-read but I guess that’s what they must teach you in the 3rd year of running your own business ;)