What's growing on here then?
We're Kate and Tom and we are GrowUp!
We want to show how fresh food can be grown anywhere in the city in a way that is ecologically sustainable and commercially scalable. For us, aquaponics is the technology that can make that vision a reality - by producing fresh fish and vegetables in a recirculating farming system.
So you're transfarming a car park?
With your help we will build our urban farm and open it as part of the Chelsea Fringe Festival in May 2013. We're planning to be onsite at 47/49, doing the installation from the start of April, and we'll have a grand opening in May. We'll then continue to farm the box across the summer and beyond! We'll be open to the public so that you can come along and see how its possible to grow fresh vegetables without soil, chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and produce fresh, sustainable fish.
Aren't there plenty more fish in the sea?
Actually no. Sustainable fish farming is a cause close to our hearts and we think cities need affordable, locally produced and sustainable sources of protein. Producing fish as well as vegetables is what makes us special and scalable.
Lettuce in on the secret - what are you going to use the money for?
All the money we fund through kickstarter will go to building the farm including:
- The retrofitting of a used shipping container
- The purchase and installation of a greenhouse
- All the aquaponic kit to grow and look after the fish
- Vertical growing towers to allow us to maximise the amount of vegetables we can grow
- Baby fish and vegetables seeds to grow in the farm
Who else is part of this shoal?
We're working with some fantastic partners on this project.
47/49 are going to be the first hosts of the GrowUp box, allowing us to use their fabulous space in Bermondsey to get this project going.
We've been collaborating closely with the inspirational UrbanFarmers in Switzerland, following in their "fin-steps" to build the first Box farm in the UK and making the most of their world-class aquaponic research lab.
We're running the project as part of the Chelsea Fringe Festival and we share their dedication to encouraging energy and excitement around growing in the city.
We've also had the privilege of working with some very creative people. Ben and Tom of Soul Cut Films worked their magic to create our Kickstarter video and Sam Cox is the brains behind the design for the structure of the box itself.
And if it all goes swimmingly, what next?
Just one last question - do your vegetables taste of fish poo?
We've never eaten fish poo, and our vegetables are delicious. Since the roots of the plants absorb the nutrients from the water, the leaves and fruits (the bits we eat) are clean, healthy and don't sit in the water.
Risks and challenges
Grow fish? Are you crazy?
No (not really), but we do know that this is something new, different and unusual and so we're doing everything we can to make sure this project is safe, sustainable and ethical.
We've got a crack team of experts who have advised us and helped us design this project, including the owners of the world's first aquaponic rooftop farm, an architect, a structural engineer and people who really like converting shipping containers into other stuff. This collection of expertise means we're well placed to deal with any challenges in the build and implementation of the project.
Tom has a background in ecology with commercial experience assessing and evaluating construction projects for their environmental impact, so we'll have a constant eye on the environmental and sustainability implications of this project.
Kate's experience with aquaponic farming systems and working on the UrbanFarmers farm in Switzerland, (as well as working on a communal rooftop garden in London) will help ensure the fish are healthy and happy and the plants are green and delicious.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
If you are interested in buying your very own GrowUp Box then please get in contact with Kate and Tom through firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have had a number of requests from people across the world who want to know if we will be making the design for the GrowUp Box available. Once the first Box is up and running we will carry out a full review of the design, implementation and operational processes and work out the best way to safely and sustainably spread the fish poo love.
For us its really important that aquaponics doesn't replicate the unsustainability of traditional fish farming by feeding farmed fish on wild-catch fry. Since the fish food is the main input to the recirculating system it is extremely important for the health of the fish and the plants. The great thing about Tilapia is that they are omnivorous - and from the start of the project we will be feeding our fish on a vegetarian fish food (It tastes a bit like rice crispies - I tried it to see). There are a number of other options for feeding Tilapia, including duckweed, worms and soldier fly larvae (you can Google these to find out more information about why they each make a great sustainable source of fish food), and we hope that as our business develops in the UK we'll have the ability to produce more of our own fish food.
We take the welfare of our fish very seriously - it's not very sexy to talk about killing fish, but we want to be totally open and transparent with our backers and our customers about how their food gets to them.
When its time to harvest the fish we have two options. If they are a small enough breed then we can kill them in traditional fisherman's way - we'll take each fish out of the tank individually and hit it hard just behind the gills to break its spine. Some larger fish have very strong bones, and for this reason we couldn't guarantee that a single hard blow would kill them. For these fish we'll have a specially built kit. As with the smaller fish, we will take them out of the tanks individually and put them into a separate much smaller water container that allows us to stun the fish so that they are unconscious with a quick and very high electrical current and them kill them by passing a longer current through the water. Our research collaborators tell us that these are the most humane ways to kill the fish. We want them to remain unstressed for as long as possible because its better for them and also means they'll be tastier.
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