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Can aquaponic urban farming bring food waste to a halt? (Posted by GrowUp Urban Farms)

Fri, 07 October 2016

Fish feces is full of nutrients – in particular, it’s high in ammonia, which is converted into nitrogen and is very useful for plants.
From using fish feces as nutrients for our plants, to recirculating the water in our aquaponics system, we work on the principle that waste never truly gets ‘thrown away’. 
The intense and unsustainable use of resources in industrial-scale agriculture means that much more is wasted than simply the food. In contrast, the resource efficient, low water-use technology behind our aquaponics farm promotes an environmentally conscious way of growing food and is especially suited to high-density urban agriculture.        
GrowUp Urban Farms is an urban farming business producing fish, salads and herbs. We run the UK’s first commercial aquaponic vertical farm in a warehouse in London. Aquaponics is an efficient recirculating system that cycles water from fish tanks (aquaculture) through soilless growing benches for plants (hydroponics) and back again. The plants absorb the nutrients in the water, and clean the water for the fish. We grow without pesticides and harvest to order. Combining aquaponics with vertical growing using LEDs means we offer year-round sustainable commercial food production.
Our local urban farm produces fish and salads for nearby residents, with all the waste water from the aquaculture system recirculated through our hydroponics system to grow our salads. It allows for the reduction of water use – which is otherwise used immensely in normal agriculture, abolishes the need for fertilizers and pesticides, makes use of unused space by growing vertically and helps to meet the growing demand for locally produced fish and greens.
With perishable crops like salads it is a great shame to see them transported from a long distance – because they don’t travel well and they taste significantly better the fresher that they are. The aim of urban farming is to tackle the ecological footprint of agriculture whilst contributing to the strength and economy of the local communities. Being close to market by growing in the city means we reduce the spoilage that inevitably occurs along the way, and being closer to our customers means we can cut down on transport costs and carbon-dioxide emissions associated with moving food over long distances. Thai Basil which has traveled nine miles from Beckton to Rosa’s Thai Cafe tastes better and in turn more nutritious, than those that have traveled from the other side of the world. Fresher food also lasts longer on shelves and in refrigerators, reducing waste.
The benefits of our commercial vertical aquaponic farm is that aquaponics is suitable for environments with limited land and water, with the capacity to grow over 10 times more than normal agricultural land and a 30% faster harvest time. We are also committed to feeding people in cities in a way that is positive for communities and the environment, both today and in the future. Our 6,000 square feet of growing space gives us the ability to produce over 20,000 kilograms of salads in a year – enough to feed more than 600 people – and produce over 4,000 kilograms of fish. Because we grow indoors, we can help fill vegetable voids in times of emergency as we are not restricted to weather conditions/climate change – we can help to tackle food shortage during crisis, where transportation and distribution channels collapse. Fresher food also lasts longer on shelves and in refrigerators, reducing waste – by growing food closer to the consumer we hope that less of it will get thrown away, as it will stay fresher and not perish so quickly. 

About GrowUp Urban Farms

GrowUp Urban Farms is committed to feeding people in cities in a way that is positive for communities and the environment, both today and in the future. We want to change the production and distribution of nutritious food which is consumed in cities and to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture. 
Author: Dafina Zeqiraj
Photo credits: Mandy Zammit
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