London’s GrowUp Urban Farms taps potential of aquaponics to grow food

Aquaponics consists of bacteria, fish, and plants that work in tandem to sustain one another. 

Nikki Fox/Daily News-Record/AP/File
Students build an aquaponics system at a school in McGaheysville , Va.

GrowUp Urban Farms’ The GrowUp Box utilizes aquaponics and vertical gardening methods to cultivate approximately 400 greens, herbs, and microgreens. English eateries purchase this produce. The GrowUp Box started in 2014 and is located in RoofEast.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), defines aquaponics as an “integration of recirculating aquaculture and hydroponics in one production system.” Aquaponics consists of bacteria, fish, and plants that work in tandem to sustain one another. Without pesticides, soil, and synthetic fertilizers, crops produced by aquaponics maintain the environment. Water from the fish tank is conserved since it cycles throughout the system.  

Here is how the GrowUp Box works: The base is a shipping container that houses approximately 150 male tilapia. Male tilapia grow faster than female tilapia.

Unlike some other fish species, tilapia consume both animals and plants. The tilapia in the tank consume commercial fish food. Kate Hofman and Tom Webster, the GrowUp Box owners, hope to use the discarded scraps from tofu manufacturing as future fish food. Also, the waste materials from breweries create another potential avenue for sustainable tilapia feed.

Tilapia fecal matter travels throughout three tanks within the GrowUp Box filtration system. Greenhouse plants atop the tank are nourished by this water. After the water travels throughout the greenhouse, it is sanitized and returns to the tank. The greenhouse features methods of vertical growing to maximize efficiency and efficacy.

The top of the greenhouse, designed by Naturelight Greenhouses, can be opened, allowing moisture from the atmosphere to water the plants and also allows for temperature adjustments within the GrowUp Box. The greenhouse is made up of approximately 400 plants and microgreens, including varieties of lettuce and spinach. Herbs, such as purple basil and sage, are also harvested. Local restaurants, including The Good Egg Restaurant and Rosa’s Thai Café Restaurant, purchase the produce.

Kate Hofman, who in collaboration with Tom Webster manages the GrowUp Box, says, “We didn’t just want to be people talking about urban farming, we wanted to be actually doing it and able to engage people in that. But even more important than communication and engagement was to have something that we could actually start selling. Because restaurants and chefs don’t want to talk to you about some food you might potentially be able to grow. They want to taste it.”   

This story originally appeared on Food Tank.

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