GrowUp Urban Farms

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GrowUp Urban Farms: The GrowUp Box: an urban farm growing salads and fish using aquaponics

London - Beckton, United KingdomLondon - Stratford, United Kingdom
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

GrowUp Urban Farms grows sustainable and healthy salads, herbs and fish in cities using aquaponics and vertical growing systems. The GrowUp Box benefits communities by lowering the environmental impact of agriculture, whilst creating educational and outreach opportunities.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if urban communities around the world were empowered to grow their own healthy, sustainable produce and were better educated about the wider challenges of our global food-system?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Agriculture contributes 1/3 of GHG emissions, reduces soil’s ability to sequester carbon, and is the biggest global user and polluter of water. Increased water scarcity will be a main impact of climate change in the UK. Over 1/3 of all food is wasted by the time it reaches consumers and food production needs to feed increasing urban populations as populations rise. Food scandals have also created desire for more transparency “from farm to fork”.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The GrowUp Box helps to feed growing urban populations by producing fish and salads local to consumers. Aquaponics is a recirculating system combining aquaculture and hydroponics that uses 90% less water than traditional agriculture and results in higher yields. Using aquaponic and vertical growing techniques we can grow food without chemicals and in a way that is resource efficient, less reliant on fossil fuels and less susceptible to the impacts of climate change. We plan to further develop and build GrowUp Boxes across London to provide local communities with the opportunity to learn about sustainable agriculture and provide local employment for young people.


Barclays Support and Mentoring for Social Enterprises competition, Climate-KIC EIT C.H.A.N.G.E Award, Finalists, European Climate-KIC Venture Competition, London Leader - London Sustainable Development Commission (LSDC), CE100 – Ellen Macarthur Foundation
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Gazing out of his window in Stratford, 14 year old James thought about what things were like before his school had a GrowUp Box – he certainly hadn’t known anything about farming and food. Now he leapt out of bed each morning to help care for The GrowUp Box in his playground. “We’re growing salad using fish poo and no chemicals! And the water goes round and round!” he explained to his classmates. Of course the best bit was the taste. He picked salad each day for his family - even his older brother had started eating fewer chips! When they went shopping he scoured labels to see where his other food came from. “ITALY!? Mum that's too FAR! Plus look at all that packaging! Look – this is from England!”

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Running our own GrowUp Box we have produced over 450g of fresh salad and 150kg of fish each year which has gone directly to local consumers. In 2015, we've provided talks and educational workshops to over 300 people; school children, university students, built environment professionals, even royalty! Everyone we've spoken to has left with a keen understanding of the challenges facing our current food-system - and a greater appreciation for resource efficiency – and often some salad! Building more GrowUp Boxes we will enable us to build on our past successes and positively impact even more communities – giving people the chance to grow their own salads and fish in a sustainable way. Growing food in cities and making that process transparent for people is a key part of the challenge of reconnecting people with the story of where their food comes from and what it takes to produce it.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Our next move is to deliver a GrowUp Box to a new community within London, developing educational frameworks and online platforms to support learnings. From this first key partnership we hope to deploy to multiple Boxes in geographical clusters, providing living wage employment for local young people with lower academic attainment as part of maintaining and running Boxes. Beyond that we will be looking to build a business model that lets us build GrowUp Boxes around the world for communities that need them most, using local labour and materials.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

When selling Boxes, we anticipate that clients will make capital contributions for a Box and GrowUp will collect ongoing maintenance fees. We have a secondee working with us from British Gas to develop and deliver a business development and investment strategy, which will look at securing additional capital and funding from clients, foundations and regional and national government to support clients with limited financial capabilities.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

We see ourselves as complimentary to other urban food projects (such as Sustain and Growing Communities) with the added value of producing a sustainable source of protein through our expertise in aquaponics and a focus on maximising yields from small spaces. We are the UK’s leading aquaponics business and we want to use our knowledge and skills to educate communities about sustainable local food production. We can leverage the brand and reputation that we’ve build at GrowUp Urban Farms to create the maximum impact through the GrowUp Box as a tool for community engagement.

Founding Story

I first came across aquaponics over 5 years ago – and loved the idea that you could grow fresh vegetables and fish in unused urban spaces. I started to imagine building farms that were environmentally sustainable and were a viable use of space in cities. I then met Tom Webster, whose background in ecology, sustainability and passion for food had also got him thinking about how to maximize food production in urban spaces. We both thought aquaponics was a great technology to teach people about what it takes to grow food sustainably. We left our corporate jobs, designed the GrowUp Box as a demonstration of urban aquaponics in small spaces and founded GrowUp Urban Farms.


GrowUp Urban Farms has evolved into a dynamic team of aquaponic innovators, business developers, strategic thinkers, project managers, designers and rapidly evolving trainee operators. [Kate Hofman – Co-Founder and CEO, Full-time], [Tom Webster – Co-Founder and COO, Full-time], [Andrew Hodson – Strategic Director, Part-time], [Oscar Davidson – Farm Manager, Full-time], [Mandy Zammit – Project Administrator, Full-time], [Sam Cox – GrowUp Box Design & Development, Part-Time], [Kelly Greer – GrowUp Box Business Development, Full-time Secondee], [Jon Savage - IT Analyst, Part-time Secondee], [Andrew Worral – Farm Assistant, Full-Time], [Jabbar Euba - Farm Assistant, Full-Time], [Luke Gray - Farm Assistant, Full-Time]. Looking forward, we hope to provide additional living wage jobs for young people with lower academic attainment and a marketing position to underpin future sales.