GrowUp Urban Farms is committed to feeding people in cities in a way that is positive for communities and the environment, both today and in the future. We want to change the production and distribution of nutritious food which is consumed in cities and to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture. So it was interesting to see that last month Fareshare launched a framework for improving food efficiency. It focuses on identifying food surplus as early as possible so that this can be used effectively, and is mainly distributed to charities. An 8-step food efficiency plan begins with preparing (for surplus food and waste) to sharing and then monitoring to understand how people are benefiting.
Backed by the Food and Drink Federation, big name supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s, and production giants such as Nestlé and Kellogg’s, it is a welcome step towards reducing and re-thinking food waste and recognising its severity. FareShare, for example, received 7,360 tonnes of surplus food from the food industry last year, which when redistributed contributed to a staggering 15.3 million meals.
Seeing this shift in attitudes towards food consumption and the idea of doing the right thing with supermarket waste food, is great. However, the food that gets wasted from our retailers is only one of the problems with our inefficient food system. From farm to fork, food is squandered through over-production and poor storage facilities, is thrown away unnecessarily because of overly stringent regulations on the dimensions of vegetables and fruit and perishes more quickly having taken so long to reach our shelves from the other side of the world. In addition, think about the way in which we grow food in the first place: the intense and unsustainable use of resources in industrial-scale agriculture means that much more is wasted than simply the food when it is thrown away.
From using fish poo as nutrients for our plants to recirculating the water in our aquaponics system we try and work on the principle that waste never truly gets ‘thrown away’: as our CEO Kate mentioned in a recent article, “we only have one planet, where is this ‘away’? For this reason, we look for ways to use recycled or re-used materials and to reduce our inputs. It started with the Box, an up-cycled shipping container, and continues at the Farm. The material that our plants grow on is made from 100% recycled wool fibres from Anglo Recycling
Our growing benches were purchased second-hand as well. Even the punnets we distribute our produce in are made from plastic that is up to 100% recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate) from Sharpack.
Our aim to have zero waste to landfill is about diverting material away from landfill and re-using already existing material where possible. By growing food closer to the consumer we hope that less of it will get thrown away, as it will stay fresher for longer and not perish so quickly.