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UK vertical farm celebrates success of conservation project

A Kent-based vertical farm, which was the first Approved Partner of a conservation project in Kent, is celebrating this initiative's achievements as it marks the partnership's one-year anniversary.

GrowUp Farms, which is a certified B Corp, is the first vertical farm to launch a range of salads into UK supermarkets. Fresh Leaf Co. launched in Iceland stores in February 2023 and the Unbeleafable range in Tesco in July 2023. Fresh Leaf Co. is now also available to buy in SPAR stores.

Already a keen advocate of sustainability and in its drive to be an industry-leading green food business, last spring, GrowUp became the first Approved Buyer of carbon units generated by the Heather Corrie Vale wilding project. This is located on a former abandoned golf course in the Darenth Valley in Kent.

The scheme has the intention of restoring nature, promoting biodiversity and locking up additional carbon at the 49-hectare site, which consists of grassland, woodland and scrub habitats. The scheme is certified under the Wilder Carbon Standard for Nature and Climate, a not-for-profit natural climate solution, for which Kent Wildlife Trust is a Trusted Deliverer.

This collaboration has already been reaping rewards for the Kent environment. The carbon income that Kent Wildlife Trust has received from GrowUp has supported the introduction of seven longhorn cattle. This has been made possible by the installation of 5,100 meters of fencing around the site boundary - more than 12% of the site-wide fencing - also funded by GrowUp.

As part of the wider corporate partnership, GrowUp has contributed 300 hours of volunteering across Kent Wildlife Trust, which is the equivalent of one full-time member of staff for two months.

Reflecting on the achievements of the last 12 months, Impact Director Gillon Dobie said: "Both GrowUp and Wilder Carbon are pioneers in their fields. It's immensely rewarding to see what can be achieved in a short space of time when two like-minded organizations with sustainability at their hearts work together."

"Our investment along with other credit buyers from the site are enabling new areas of scrub to be opened up at Heather Corrie Vale creating a valuable habitat that is important to an array of species and provides a protective nursery for young saplings."

"The introduction of the seven longhorn cattle is incredible too! Their grazing will tackle the thick grass and improve the condition of the grassland areas. The kickstarting of natural processes from the introduction of the cattle will be key to creating a biodiverse, resilient landscape that locks up carbon and provides more space for nature."

"We're already a low-carbon salad producer and a certified B Corp that uses 100% renewable energy to grow our salad leaves. But projects like Heather Corrie Vale are indicative of how we want to go further, supporting the efforts of others to care for the natural world. We will continue to demonstrate our commitment by using technology and innovative practices that put sustainability at the heart of our farm operations and want to support the industry in finding more sustainable ways to produce great sustainable food in general."

Helen Gillespie-Brown, business development manager at Wilder Carbon, said: "We at Wilder Carbon are delighted to see the immense progress of the Heather Corrie Vale Project being delivered by our Trusted Deliverers Kent Wildlife Trust."

"This has been made possible by the pioneering approach that Wilder Carbon's partners like GrowUp are taking, in the investment of Wilder Carbon Credits that will support much broader sustainability goals, locking up additional carbon and boosting local biodiversity."

"With partners like GrowUp leading the way, we are excited to see more and more private businesses supporting these incredible, wilder, natural climate solutions that are addressing the polycrises and demonstrating the art of what is possible".

Talia Sherrin-Gates, head of fundraising for the Kent Wildlife Trust, said: "The Wildlife Trust is delighted to partner with a nature-conscious business like GrowUp, whose actions have already had a positive impact across the Trust."

"The investment GrowUp has made as one of our official corporate partners allows us to continue our vital work to protect and restore nature. Our collaboration has already resulted in more than 300 hours of volunteering at nature reserves across the county, enabling GrowUp's team to connect with nature and each other, and support the work of the Trust's dedicated team of wardens."

"Furthermore, GrowUp's contribution to protecting nature has been broadened as they work towards reducing their carbon footprint by investing in Wilder Carbon Credits from our Heather Corrie Vale site - a monumentally important project for the Trust, and the future of nature-based solutions."

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