A London warehouse is being converted into the UK’s first commercial aquaponic farm, creating a pioneering new model for sustainable, ethical food production in cities.
The farm will use aquaculture and hydroponic technology to produce more than 20,000kg of sustainable salads and herbs (enough for 200,000 salad bags) and 4,000kg of fish each year, with the first harvests predicted for next September.
GrowUp Urban Farms has been given planning permission by the London Borough of Newham.
Based inside an industrial warehouse in Beckton, the farm will combine two well- established farming practices — aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants in a nutrient solution without soil) in a re-circulating system.
Waste water from fish tanks is pumped through hydroponic growing beds, where salad plants absorb waste nutrients from the water, and clean the water for the fish, as the system re-circulates.
Increasing urbanisation and populations have led to these new ways to feed people in cities. Aquaponic farming is a resource-efficient way to feed growing local communities, cutting down on the cost and impact of transport.
In the London farm, built inside an industrial warehouse, salads and herbs will be grown year-round using specialist horticultural LED lighting designed and manufactured by Philips. The farm will also produce tilapia, a fish used in many different cuisines, and most of the produce from the farm will be sold to local restaurants.
Kate Hofman, CEO and co-founder of GrowUp Urban Farms, said the business represents a more sustainable future for feeding people in cities. “This farm will be a flagship for innovative urban farming, putting food and feeding people at the heart of the development of London as a smarter and more sustainable city,”
The farm will include a visitor centre allowing people to understand more about sustainable food production in cities. The farm will provide eight jobs, with three positions created specifically for local young people with a history of poor educational attainment, and with all employees receiving at least the London Living Wage.
In September 2014, GrowUp closed their first investment round, securing over £1.1m (€1.5m) to support the development of this project. Over 65% of this investment was provided by Ignite Social Enterprise, backed by Centrica.
GrowUp Urban Farms has been awarded funding from InnovateUK through the Agri-Tech Catalyst fund, and has also been aided by Climate-KIC, a knowledge and innovation communities group focused on climate change, put in place by the EU’s European Institute of Innovation and Technology.
GrowUp Urban Farms work with collaboration partners Arup, Sterner and I+S Associates as well as dRMM and Cambridge HOK on the design and build of the farm.
Earlier this year, ECF Farmsystems launched Europe’s biggest aquaponic city farm for fish and vegetables, in Berlin. Already selling produce, it needs 70% less cultivation area than conventional farms.
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