Walk out of Stratford tube station and look up to the top of Stratford Shopping Centre. Do you see anything out of the ordinary? Possibly a leading example of innovative agricultural technology, designed to showcase efficient urban food production?

You’d be hard pressed to match that description to the unassuming outline of a shipping container in a disused car park if you weren’t already aware of it.

We took the lift up to the 8th floor of the Centre to discover more and met Sam and Kelly, two members of the Grow Up team. They proudly showed us around the GrowUp box – an upcycled shipping container housing a fish farm in the base with a vertical growing system of salads and herbs in the greenhouse structure on top. It was fascinating to hear about the details involved in aquaponics, such as altering the pH of the water between fish and plants and regulating indoor temperature with rooftop vents. A shaky trip up the ladder yielded tasty results as we sampled freshly-picked beet greens and red mustard.

GrowUp use this prototype structure as an education tool to raise awareness of sustainable urban farming; in the last year they had around 500 children from various schools come to visit the Box. Sam would like to expand to have Boxes in each borough in London, perhaps all with unique design variations. The organisation also have a much bigger commercial aquaponics farm in an industrial warehouse in Beckton, producing 20 tonnes of salad & herbs and 4000kg of tilapia fish per year to nearby restaurants and markets.

After the tour of the GrowUp box we left the cold wind of the rooftop for a nearby café and immediately launched into a lively discussion around food choices and ethics. As Catalysts, it was inspiring to witness first-hand the creativity and innovation of a small start-up in London. GrowUp has proved that with focus and dedication it is possible to put an unbelievably big idea into practice. By channelling this much infectious enthusiasm into our own community project on sustainable food we’re sure it’ll be a success.

To find out more about GrowUp visit their website: growup.org.uk