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Vertical farms in east London are growing greens from fish poo

Written by
Alexandra Sims

It’s tricky for a city like London to clean up its act, but little ideas can lead to big changes. Here’s how GrowUp Urban Farms is using verticle farms to produce fish and greens at the same time

Are you trying to tell me that poo can save the world?

Yep. Roof East, Stratford’s topsides joint, is host to GrowUp Box, the UK’s first vertical urban farm and one solution for the future of farming. It produces 250kg of fish and 400kg of salad and herbs a year. 

So where does the fish poo come in?

We’re talking aquaponics here: a combo of hydroponics and aquaculture. Inside GrowUp there are tanks full of fish whose effluent enriches the water with nutrients. The water is pumped on to plants in a greenhouse above. Then, as the plants grow, they filter the water for the fish. 

Neat design but why is it important? 

Traditional agriculture accounts for 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, 70 percent of freshwater use and half of all useful land on Earth. 

So the GrowUp Box cuts down on the waste and space needed to grow stuff?

It does, as well as on the pollution from transportation. GrowUp Box’s Sam Cox says that their system is a great way to grow food sustainably in cities, particularly leafy crops, which are often imported from abroad. 

How can I get involved? 

Join one of GrowUp Box’s regular tours or training sessions, which can help you set up your own farm. 

Illustrations: Dan Woodger

Find out more at the GrowUp website.

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