Aquaponic farm gets green light

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Nina Pullman

BY NINA PULLMAN

@nina_pullman

Aquaponic farm gets green light

A London warehouse will be converted into a salad, herb and fish farm, and will produce 200,000 bags of salad a year

Aquaponic farm gets green light

An example of what the London farm will look like on completion 

Analysis

  • NINA PULLMAN

    NINA PULLMAN

    Deputy Editor
    17th April 2015 15:34

    With a planned commercial salad output to match that of conventional growing systems, GrowUp Urban Farms' warehouse conversion is the latest addition to what is becoming an increasingly viable fresh produce sector for the future.

    It reminded me of last year, when I visited Growing Underground's micro produce and herb production site - located in ex-air raid shelters underneath Clapham North tube station. Those plants were also being grown under LED lights and on a hydroponic growing bed - and with roots firmly based in sustainable food production, which seeks to engage the local community as well as lessen the impact of commercial agriculture on the environment, the two ventures have much in common.

    With two urban farms in London already, salad certainly looks set to be the category to pioneer a new era of growing. The question is what category will be the first to join them?

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A large-scale aquaponic farm that will produce more than 20,000kg of salad annually is being built in a converted London warehouse.

The farm, based in Beckton, is expected to produce its first harvest in September. It will use aquaculture and hydroponic technology to grow enough salads and herbs for around 200,000 salad bags, and produce 4,000kg of fish each year.

Run by GrowUp Urban Farms, the project was given the green light to start building this week after winning planning permission from the London Borough of Newham.

The farm will provide eight jobs, with three positions created specifically for local young people with a history of poor educational attainment. All employees will receive the London Living Wage, of £9.15 an hour, as a minimum.

“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,” said GrowUp Urban Farms CEO, Kate Hofman.

The farm will also include a visitor centre to explain more about sustainable food production in cities, and engage the local community in urban farming.

Hydroponic systems pump waste water from fish tanks through growing beds, where salad plants absorb waste nutrients from the water, and then the water for the fish as the system continually recirculates.

Specialist horticultural LED lighting is to be designed and manufactured by Philips, and the tilapia fish that are produced by the farm will be sold to local restaurants.

Rosie Boycott, chair of the London Food Board, said: "GrowUp Urban Farms is pioneering an innovative approach that will see a former warehouse in London transformed into a highly productive urban farm, which will cultivate not only great grub but jobs for local people too.

"I wish Kate and the team all the best for this exciting new venture and I look forward to sampling the produce."

GrowUp secured its first investment of £1.1 million in September 2014, with over 65 per cent of this provided by Ignite Social Enterprise, backed by Centrica. It has also been awarded funding from InnovateUK through the Agri-Tech Catalyst fund.

The company currently runs the Stratford-based pilot – GrowUp Box – a demonstration aquaponic farming system built from a shipping container and greenhouse. 

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