Visit the Marlborough Playground in London this summer and you’ll see more than the vast expanse of blacktop that’s usually there. A modified, upcycled shipping container with a greenhouse on top—dubbed the GrowUpBox—is producing both fresh vegetables and fresh fish, all in one compact set-up.
GrowUp founders Kate Hofman and Tom Webster built the Kickstarter-funded farm to demonstrate the possibilities of aquaponic farming—where wastewater from fish tanks is turned into nutrients (with a little help from microbacteria) that fertilize plants, which in turn purify the water. In the end, the purified water is sent back to the fish and the process starts all over again.
The box contains two 1,000-liter fish tanks that house 150 tilapia, but the Kickstarter page assures us that the vegetables (the box can grow salads, herbs, and microgreens) don’t taste like fish poop:
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.
The GrowUpBox, created as part of the Chelsea Fringe Festival, will be on display all summer. It’s just the first of many similar projects from Hofman and Webster. "We see aquaponic technology as a commercially viable way of growing food in cities," says Hofman. "We want to springboard from this project to building a much larger farm not using a shipping container. We’re looking at rooftops, brownfield land, warehouses, and commercial space."
As for the GrowUp Box? "We haven’t quite agreed on what will happen after the summer," says Hofman. So check it out while you can.