GrowUp: Serving the UK the best in fresh food

GrowUp: Serving the UK the best in fresh food

 

GrowUp Farms was founded in 2013 by Kate Hofman and Tom Webster. They wanted to combine new and existing technology to grow food that tasted better, lasted longer, and reduced the environmental impact of getting healthy food onto people’s plates.  Their purpose has always been better food for all.

GrowUp Farms latest and biggest farm, Pepperness, in Kent produces fresh salads for the UK market. It combines innovative farming technology with renewable energy, using electricity and residual heat from the bioenergy plant next door.

Using vertical growing technologies and controlled environment agriculture, GrowUp Farms produces a year-round harvest of fresh, leafy vegetables. They’re the first vertical farm to introduce a branded salad into a supermarket chain in the UK with the launch of Fresh Leaf Co. in Iceland stores across the country in February 2023 and SPAR in February 2024, and the Unbeleafable range in Tesco in July 2023.   

Alex Edwards, Category Buying Manager – Produce at Tesco says ‘’We’re excited to offer Tesco shoppers Unbeleafable, an innovative new range of bagged salads grown using renewable energy and grown all year-round in the UK. It stays fresh for longer – making it an excellent choice for both the planet and consumers who we expect will waste less at home. As Tesco progresses towards our goal of net zero from farm to fork by 2050, we’re always looking for more choices that support us and our shoppers in eating more sustainably.” 

 

The challenge

In order to continue growing the best salad, year-round, GrowUp Farms must ensure that every aspect of their operations is optimised, including using technology to reduce energy consumption. They needed to ensure that the lighting used in the farm is , sustainable and economically viable, especially given the energy crisis.

Lighting is a critical component of an optimised commercial growing environment. Against the backdrop of rising energy prices, choosing the right lighting partner was even more important.

GrowUp Farms needs reliable technology to meet the standards of a high-care production environment. This is where the best quality lighting has a huge role to play. 

 

The solution

Having worked with Philips Horticulture at their previous farm and their Leaf Lab in Cambridge, the team at GrowUp Farms already knew that they were making the right choice in technology and lighting solutions in working with Philips again. They trusted that the lighting was going to be reliable and would help deliver the quality of product while being more energy efficient. 

Tailored light recipes are used to grow their leafy vegetables. The light recipe contributes to the higher quality leaves. Kate Hofman comments, GrowUp’s Founder says ‘’The lighting helps produce a  strong and consistent high-quality product. There has never been more need for sustainable, resilient and local food systems and for this, each element of technology in the farm has a huge role to play.’’ 

Philips Horticulture LED lighting was the perfect solution as it offers greater control over plant growth, faster germination, faster root growth, and bigger yields. Philips Horticulture LED lighting systems use 85% less energy than traditional methods, making them highly energy efficient. GrowUp Farms also chose to work with Philips Horticulture as they were looking for the right partners who could bring knowledge and expertise and help GrowUp with the right technology to manage a controlled and concise yield, in turn helping with commercial viability.

Kate Hofman adds, “Using LED lighting offers several benefits for growing sustainable food. Working with Philips as a lighting partner again and using the right kind of lighting in our farms makes it possible for us to grow fresh salad sustainably throughout the year. We knew from our experience of working with Philips that we already had the right partner for the next farm.”

A double win for Kate Hofman, founder of GrowUp Farms, at the 2023 Great British Entrepreneur Awards

A double win for Kate Hofman, founder of GrowUp Farms, at the 2023 Great British Entrepreneur Awards

LONDON – Kate Hofman, founder of the pioneering GrowUp Farms, the first vertical farm to have a branded bagged salad in major UK supermarkets (Tesco and Iceland), has won two major awards at the prestigious 2023 Great British Entrepreneur Awards.

The awards scooped by the food and social impact entrepreneur were the Sustainability Entrepreneur of the Year and the Equity-backed Entrepreneur of the year.

Now in its 11th year, and previously described as “The Grammys for Entrepreneurship”, The Great British Entrepreneur Award (GBEA) winners were named on November 20th at a ceremony at London’s Grosvenor House, and recognise exceptional entrepreneurial spirit, dedication, and remarkable achievement within their industry.  They celebrate the outstanding individuals and businesses that drive innovation, generate employment opportunities, and contribute to the growth of the UK economy.

In the past 10 years, the pioneering founder of GrowUp Farms, Kate Hofman, has taken the concept of vertical farming from a small urban farm in London, to a huge vertical farm in Kent.  This farm, which is backed by £100 million investment, was the first vertical farm to sell a branded bagged salad in major UK supermarkets, with the launch earlier this year of their two award-winning salads: Unbeleafable, which is in Tesco stores nationwide, and Fresh Leaf Co., which is in Iceland and Food Warehouse stores.

GrowUp Farms is also unique among UK vertical farms because it uses on-site renewable heat and power and can therefore grow food with a lighter environmental footprint.

The growth and success of GrowUp Farms has taken place in a decade of increasing concern about UK food production.  The UK relies on importing 67% of the salad we eat each year, and over 90% in the winter. This year saw a 40-year low in domestic salad production – due mainly to soaring energy costs – and that, coupled with the UK’s over-reliance on other countries for its salad vegetables supplies, led to  high-profile shortages in UK supermarkets.

“I am very proud to have won these two awards at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards and am accepting them on behalf of the wider team at GrowUp Farms, which has spent 10 years developing the technology and expertise to get to this point: growing salad leaves in the UK year-round commercially” said Hofman.

“Winning awards is hugely gratifying because it allows us to sit back for a moment and appreciate how much we have achieved – and what all the hard work has been for. Our salads are also winning product awards – which is fantastic! This recognition by the Great British Entrepreneur Awards is incredibly encouraging and motivating for us all and gives us the impetus to keep striving.

“Our R&D team is already solving some of the challenges that will allow us to grow other crops such as identifying heritage seed varieties that can’t be grown conventionally and improving the growth cycle of certain plants. Vertical farming is very much a long-term solution to the problems we are seeing.”

The GBEA judges said: “GrowUp Farms has a remarkable story showcasing an incredible female entrepreneur, Kate Hofman, with a clear vision and a well thought out plan for the future. The business itself is truly terrific, reflecting remarkable determination and skill, leading to significant investment and growth.

“GrowUp Farms is an inspiring story of innovation in sustainable farming. The judges commended the fantastic idea and remarkable business growth, noting that vertical farming represents the future of agriculture, allowing for a reduction in land usage while contributing to the development of biodiversity.”

For more information about the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, please visit www.greatbritishentrepreneurawards.com.

To learn more about GrowUp Farms, visit https://growupfarms.co.uk