Sitting on swanky Stratford rooftop Roof East is GrowUp Box, the UK’s first aquaponics farm in a shipping container and east London’s answer to the future of agriculture. Aquaponics, if you’re wondering, is a revolutionary farming technique, combining hydroponics (growing plants in water without soil) and aquaculture (fish farming). Inside you’ll find tanks full of fish, whose poo makes for nutrient-rich water. This is pumped to the plants in the greenhouse above, which in turn filter the water for the fish. This cyclical process produces more than 250kg of fish and 400kg of salad and herbs a year, including lettuce, rocket and mint.
The project – set up with a Kickstarter campaign – aims to fix flaws in the way our food is grown. Traditional agriculture currently accounts for 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, 70 percent of freshwater use and around half of available land on Earth. The folks at GrowUp Box hope to build vertical farms in cities using empty rooftops and brownfield sites, reducing transport emissions by selling their produce to local businesses.
You can get up close to all the aquaponics activity on one of the guided GrowUp Box tours. You’ll also get to pick a punnet of salad to tuck into at home. So, next time you’re sipping a cocktail on Roof East, think about where that mint in your mojito came from.