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GrowUp Farms Case Study

16 April 2024
GrowUp Farms is leading the way in sustainable agriculture solutions with ISO 14001 (Environmental Management Certification) being their business tool of choice.

The UK imports 90% of all of its salad products in the winter and nearly 70% the rest of the year but award-winning vertical farm GrowUp Farms is hoping to play a key role in helping the UK to end its over-reliance on imports of salad and salad vegetables with its farm in Kent. GrowUp has combined new and existing technology to create the perfect controlled environment 365 days a year to grow salad leaves that taste better and last longer.

The indoor environment in the farm mirrors the temperature and conditions of a Mediterranean spring day – the ideal condition in which to grow salad leaves. This means that the leaves can be grown without pesticides and don’t need to be chlorine washed, all processes that degrade the quality of the leaves. 

Sustainability is at the heart of everything that GrowUp does which means the salad leaves are seeded, grown, harvested and packed all at the farm in Kent, significantly reducing the supply chain and saving 2.8 million food miles.

GrowUp now supplies its fresher, longer-lasting ready-to-eat bagged salad brands, Fresh Leaf Co and Unbeleafable to Iceland, SPAR and Tesco stores across the UK.  

Tackling the energy crisis 

The biggest challenge to vertical farms has been the escalating energy prices, but GrowUp has overcome this hurdle by breaking their reliance on electricity. They have done this by using electricity and waste heat from the bioenergy plant next door to the farm, creating a more resilient and sustainable food system. 

Striving for a fully sustainable business 

Although GrowUp has always focused on managing its environmental impact, the team wanted to align their management system to a world-renowned and globally recognised standard. 

By implementing and then achieving UKAS-accredited certification for ISO 14001 with NQA the company was able to successfully demonstrate their commitment to innovation, using technology and practices that put sustainability at the heart of farm operations. This in turn ensured that they could support the industry in finding more sustainable ways to produce food.  

Making a choice to benefit their business 

GrowUp’s Impact Analyst Elliot Baird explained We were recommended to use NQA by Ruth at Ruth Kilbourne Consulting who has worked with the certification Body for a long time. She helped us prepare for the audit.  

We had multiple sessions with Ruth where we showed her what we do and she made recommendations based on further good practice and the requirements of ISO 14001. One of the challenges we had was our technical knowledge of ISO 14001. At GrowUp Farms, we have a combined knowledge of food safety and quality audits, including BRC, ISO 9001 and even experience with AS9100. Through extensive research and the critical support of Ruth's expertise, we learned the requirements of ISO 14001 and what improvements would make a success of our management system. 

Our auditor was John Early, who was extremely helpful in the lead-up to the audit, communicating the agenda clearly over the phone and by email, and giving us time to ensure the right people and resources were available on the day. During the audit, John was a cordial with all members of staff while being clear about his requirements and reasons for asking certain questions. 

As a food producer, we have existing Food Safety and Quality systems that are already certified to national supply chain standards. So, there is already a strong standard for process and document management within the business. The environmental management system was designed to work in parallel with existing systems, following the same conventions and referencing existing documents where appropriate to streamline and mitigate duplication of processes.

Seeing instant results 

Since becoming certified to the environmental management standard, GrowUp has seen interest in environmental impacts within the company grow exponentially. They explained that the achievement of certification has 'bolstered everyone's enthusiasm for finding opportunities to reduce their footprint', and the ISO 14001 system provides a method for effectively managing these initiatives. 

Preparing for an even brighter future 

GrowUp’s plan for the future is to invest in more farms, more crops and more people, so they’ve designed their system to be flexible and scalable to provide an environmental management framework that works for all of their sites.

Not only do they have large plans to maintain their compliance but also to ensure that they find ways to continually improve both their environmental impact and their management system itself.   

Final thoughts from NQA

NQA congratulates GrowUp for their ongoing success with ISO 14001 (Environmental Management).

The company is a fantastic example of best practice for thefood industry – and we look forward to seeing what they achieve next!

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