Vertical farming operator GrowUp Farms has secured £100m from US green investment firm Generate Capital to fund the construction of a major new facility in Sandwich, Kent.
GrowUp, which describes itself as a “pioneer in controlled-environment agriculture”, previously supplied salads to wholesalers, Foodservice and others like Wholefoods and Farmdrop through its now-defunct urban farming businesses, The GrowUp Box and Unit 84. .
The investment will help provide Kent’s low-emissions farm with ‘fresher, more sustainable leafy salads on supermarket shelves all year round’, grown using the ‘high-efficiency renewable energy system exclusive to GrowUp, the company said.
The facility is said to use 95% less water than conventional growing methods, while the farm-grown salads could save up to three million truck miles a year by avoiding imports.
The site is expected to start delivering its first crop of ready-to-eat salad leaves by the end of the year. Crops are grown without pesticides or chlorine washing and are powered directly by renewable energy.
GrowUp said the facility would be the first in a series of large, low-carbon indoor farms planned by the company that would serve retail and wholesale markets in the UK.
“Our farms can deliver fresh, sustainable salads consistently and withstand the growing environmental and economic pressures of inflation in transport, labor and commodity costs that have tested the sector. fresh produce,” said GrowUp co-founder Kate Hofman.
The company said it had spent nine years developing its expertise and developing the “state-of-the-art” technology used in the new facility. This technology has lowered the cost of vertical farming, while reducing food waste in the fruit and vegetable supply chain and at home, he added.
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“A good salad is the original plant-based meal, but for a long time it’s been hard to get shoppers interested in what’s out there,” said Kate Hofman, co-founder of GrowUp.
“We are passionate about getting people to rethink their salads and excited about this opportunity to provide healthy, affordable, British-grown food to more customers, with a lighter environmental footprint and a more resilient supply chain. throughout the year,” Hofman said.
“Our team has worked hard to resolve the issues that were preventing vertically grown salads from being competitive and sustainable,” added GrowUp MD Marcus Whately.
“We partnered with Generate Capital because of their long-term focus on sustainability and economic efficiency, and together we can now scale this model.”
Generate Capital is an American public benefit corporation that builds, owns, operates and finances more than 2,000 sustainable infrastructure projects around the world. As part of the £100m investment program, it will also support a range of vertical farms that benefit from GrowUp’s expertise and renewable energy model.
“We are delighted to partner with the expert and innovative team at GrowUp to accelerate sustainable vertical agricultural infrastructure to the UK market,” said Dr Erich Becker, Head of Generate Europe. “Low-carbon vertical farming is a much-needed development and we are happy to work to accelerate it in Europe and North America.”
“As we grow in Kent and other locations, we look forward to becoming a long-term supply partner across multiple categories – helping supermarkets address environmental and supply chain issues,” Whately added.
GrowUp plans to expand its line beyond salads and is developing future crops and products at its R&D farm at the Agri-Epi Center at Harper Adams University.
Vertical farming is a growing sector in the UK, with the country soon to be home to two of the largest facilities in the world, owned by JFC in Gloucestershire and Fischer Farms in Norfolk respectively.