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Students visit Vertical Farming Lab

By Ben Nicholls

A group of students from Cohort 5, namely Benjamin Nicholls, Catherine Merchant, Dimitris Paparas, Elliot Smith, and Liyou Zhou recently attended an Agri-TechE Early-Career Innovators’ Forum (ECIF) visit to Leaf Labs. The visit took place at their Bourn Quarter site just outside of Cambridge. GrowUp Farms’ centre here is dedicated to research for its production facilities.

GrowUp ( is a company specialising in the production of leafy greens (lettuce, rocket) through vertical farming and controlled-environment agriculture. Their main production facility in Kent, Pepperness, aspires to become the blueprint for vertical farming operations in the UK and abroad – using a tenth of the water compared to traditional farming. This site uses a highly automated production line and also manages to use 100% renewable energy. GrowUp’s produce can be bought from Iceland, Tesco, and Spar. Their main selling point is that the consumer’s hand being the first ever to touch the produce; due to the growing environment the salad does not need to be washed and thus has a longer shelf-life (double!).

Our visit to Leaf Labs introduced us to their state-of-the-art research facilities, where they attempt to tune the growing process to perfection. Our visit included a presentation detailing GrowUp’s operations, past, present and future, and a tour of the facilities. We had the opportunity to ask many questions to understand how vertical farming can operate commercially.


“I was astonished by the scale of their operations and the significant milestones they achieved. They have effectively created a lettuce factory – more so than a farm. It is hard to comprehend all the complex interactions at play, even in this highly controlled environment. I was happy to hear that they are keen to explore data-driven optimisation further and achieve results faster. Going from seed to harvesting in 3 weeks is incredible, especially considering this happens year-round. I would highly recommend visiting their facilities.”

Dimitrios Paparas

“It was great to have an insight into the methods in which GrowUp tackles the problem of farming. I think it has great applications and would like to see more companies follow this trend. The largest barrier is energy costs and if these can be mitigated then vertical farming can easily become widespread.”

Benjamin Nicholls

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