A pioneering vertical farm that completed its topping-out ceremony just under a year ago has been granted planning permission by Dover District Council to extend.
GrowUp Farms’ Pepperness site at Discovery Park near Sandwich has been given the green light to push ahead with expansion plans that will raise the height of the current farm to 24.87 metres from 18.9 metres to accommodate more growing chambers, which will help the farm to increase its output by 40%. There will also be a new chiller building with loading bays, a new plant building, parking spaces for 30 cars and three HGV vehicles and provision of 27 ground level cooler units.
Talking about getting the go-ahead for the extension, Tom Ehrman, Engineering Director at GrowUp Farms, said: “I am delighted to report that planning consent has been granted for the extension of our Pepperness farm. This allows us to multiply output four fold, while doubling the number of full-time farm employees from 30 to 60. I would like to thank everyone involved in the process, particularly Dover District Council for their ongoing support.”
GrowUp Farms was the first vertical farm in the UK to launch a branded salad into a major supermarket group with the launch of Fresh Leaf Co. into Iceland stores across the UK earlier this year.
The planning consent is the icing on the cake for GrowUp Farms, which celebrates 10 years in business this week – just days after co-founder Kate Hofman was a guest at 10 Downing Street for the Farm to Food summit as an industry expert.
In the past 10 years, the pioneering founders, Kate and Tom Webster, have taken the concept of vertical farming from a small unit in London using aquaponic methods, to the huge vertical farm, Pepperness, following a £100 million investment last year.
Kate said: “It’s been a busy 10 months since we launched GrowUp Farms at Discovery Park with the GrowUp Farms team working round the clock to help us achieve our goal of being the first vertical farm to launch a branded salad into a major supermarket chain.
“Getting the green light from the planning department at Dover District Council means we can really start to ramp up production at Pepperness, supplying more Fresh Leaf Co. to Iceland stores around the country as well as launching a new salad brand later this year.
“Our R&D team are working hard to solve 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 have seen recently caused by climate change and issues with supply chains, which have led to a shortage of salad vegetables in supermarkets for fresh produce.
“The UK relies on importing 67% of the salad we eat each year, and over 90% in the winter. Our farm at Pepperness is going to play a key role, alongside traditional farming, in helping the UK end its over-reliance on imports, and getting this planning permission is going to go a long way in helping us to achieve that goal.
“Discovery Park is the perfect location for our farm, and we are thrilled to be able to be part of the really supportive business community there as well as being an employer of local people.”