GrowUp is disrupting traditional agriculture by using urban farming techniques to reduce the distance our food travels between farm and fork. The current methods of transporting, refrigerating, and storing food are unsustainable and account for around 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, 70% of freshwater use, and almost 50% of all available land on earth.
So Kate and her co-founder Tom Webster saw urban farming as a potential solution. They tested their idea by building The GrowUp Box, a small-scale, Kickstarter-funded demonstration farm on a Stratford rooftop.
On top of producing fresh fish, herbs and salads, this site is used to engage and inspire communities to learn about sustainable food production. They run workshops and tours on their innovative vertical ‘fish-fuelled’ farming methods.
Unit 84 is a working urban farm in a Beckton warehouse. The 6,000 square feet of growing space produces more than 20,000 kg of sustainable salads and herbs, and 4,000 kg of fish each year!
Ogunte: What is your 3-point plan to change the way we feed people in cities?
Ogunte: What is the greatest challenge facing GrowUp right now?
Kate: Defining our strategy for growing our business to scale.
Ogunte: How have mentors influenced you? What qualities do the best mentors have?
Kate: I have several mentors who I admire for their personal and professional acumen and achievements. It’s really important to have people to look up to when you’re running your own business, who you can have open and honest conversations with. I would speak to different mentors about different things, based on the specific challenge I’m dealing with and their experience. I think the best mentors are excellent listeners. They’re also willing to be honest with you and get you to challenge some of your own assumptions.
Ogunte: What are your three top tips for increasing the visibility of a social business?
Ogunte: Which areas of business do you find it hardest to be confident in? Do you have any strategies to cope?
Kate: Direct sales. My best strategy is to get on with it, and practice!
Ogunte: What is one thing you’ve learned that you wish you’d known from the beginning?
Kate: Nothing - because if I’d known how hard things would be, I probably would have given up!
Ogunte: Looking ahead, where do you want to be by 2030? What skills will you need to focus on now to be the best leader you can be for that future?
Kate: I want to be running a successful business that has scaled its operations, is having an impact in the sustainable food system across the world, and is highly profitable. To make that happen, I want to develop my commercial and strategic skills. I also want to make sure I’m looking after myself and maintaining a good balance between my work life and my personal life.
Ogunte: Finally, who are three women in social enterprise who inspire you?