A start-up is offering to deliver vertically-farmed vegetables to Londoners homes within 24 hours of harvesting in a first for the capital.
Crate to Plate, founded by former banker and scion of the supermarket dynasty, Sebastien Sainsbury, currently grows all its leafy greens inside three giant shipping containers on the Isle of Dogs.
The type of indoor farming the start-up uses has been tipped as the future of food production, and investors have spotted the trend.
The company, launched in London earlier this year, grows salad and herbs using hydroponics - which means seeds are grown year-round on vertical and horizontal racks without any soil or pesticides. The amount of water, light and “specially mixed” nutrients each kale or basil plant receives is carefully controlled.
The process uses around 95% less water than traditional farming, in a tiny space. In recent film A Life on Our Planet, David Attenborough recently warned of the critical importance of moving away from exhaustive farming practices to innovative solutions.
At the height of the November lockdown the team - which includes agriculture MA students - branched out into high-end “leafy veg box” deliveries spanning Zones 1-3. Each delivery is made on electric vehicle.
A £15 variety “farm to table” box will buy you 3 lettuce varieties, 3 bags of other leafy greens and 4 herbs - all harvested within 24-hours of arriving at your door.
Crate To Plate is now planning to expand around the capital. A second site is opening in Elephant & Castle in the new year, and the firms aims to have up to 15 “farms” by 2021. Each will produce up to six tonnes of fresh food per year.
Sainsbury, who previously founded the Hush Restaurant and organic baby food company Goodness Gracious, told the Standard he began exploring the business idea in 2015, after visiting a hydroponic farmer in Canada.
“I’m all about food wastage. One of the reasons I set up this business is for the environmental sustainability element of it.
“Now technology has enabled us to move from growing on one row [as on the Canadian farm] to growing both vertically and horizontally,” he said.
Of the veg boxes, he said: “I did a bit of research and Londoners’ searches for ‘where does my food come from?’ increased by 40% in the pandemic.