House of Lords Horticultural Sector Committee visits Kent-based vertical farm, GrowUp Farms

“We’re proud to be the home of pioneering vertical farm, GrowUp Farms and all the work they’re doing to transform UK agriculture. Building on Kent’s strong farming heritage, the GrowUp Farms team are integrating innovative systems to create a sustainable, resilient food system at scale. We look forward to continuing to support them and welcoming other organisations to this exciting community.” – Jane Kennedy, Chief Business Officer at Discovery Park.

Members of the Lords Horticultural Sector Committee visited pioneering Kent-based vertical farm, GrowUp Farms, in Sandwich last week to find out about how vertical farming will play a key role in the future of farming.

Lord Carter, Lord Colgrain, Lord Coles, Baroness Fookes, Lord Redesdale and Baroness Walmsley visited the farm – called Pepperness – which is leading the charge in vertical farms in the UK as it was the first to sell its salad ranges through UK supermarkets.

The House of Lords Horticultural Sector Committee was created in April this year to produce a report on the horticultural industry. A 12-strong committee from all parties including crossbenchers is considering the challenges faced by the sector, which is worth billions to the UK economy and is a significant contributor to UK food security.

GrowUp Farms is the UK’s leading vertical farm, and launched its Unbeleafable salad range in Tesco stores in July this year.

A vertical farm is an innovative agricultural system, designed to grow crops in vertically stacked layers in a controlled indoor environment.  The growing process means that salad can be grown year-round in the UK and uses up to 94% less water than traditional growing.

Pepperness grows the salad without the need to use pesticides of any kind, nor does it need chlorine-washing, in fact the salad doesn’t need to be washed at all before eating – all processes which degrade the quality of the leaves.  The supply chain is significantly reduced, so the salad only travels from Kent to UK supermarkets, rather than from overseas.  It tastes fresher and crisper and lasts longer than other salads, which means there’s less waste produced too.

“We’re very proud of what we are achieving here at Pepperness, and the part we’re playing in the future of food security for the UK” said Kate Hofman, founder and Chief Brand Officer of GrowUp Farms.  “Currently the UK imports around 67% of its salad from warmer climates, and this rises to 90% in the winter*, so vertical farms can help the UK to be more self-sufficient in producing food.”

“We were delighted to welcome the House of Lords Horticultural Sector Committee to Pepperness, and we very much support the inquiry into the considerable challenges facing this sector, not least the effects of climate change.

“We grow, harvest, and pack our salads for supermarkets across the UK, all at Pepperness in Kent.  The farm’s highly controlled environment simulates a beautiful Mediterranean spring day, every day, providing the perfect growing conditions for salad.”

Lord Redesdale, Chair of the Committee, said: “Horticulture is worth billions to the UK economy. From healthy fruit and vegetables to the multitude of crop and plant varieties that can be grown in the UK, it is a fundamental component of a secure food supply, supports the wellbeing of millions of people, and could provide innovative solutions to the challenges presented by climate change. Despite this, horticulture has been continually overlooked and undervalued.

“As part of our inquiry, we were delighted to visit Pepperness and see how GrowUp Farms is putting real innovation into practice to build resilience into the UK horticulture sector.”

Pepperness was originally a brownfield site. Following £100m investment, GrowUp Farms is building the equivalent of 1000 acres of Grade 1 farmland on the site and has recently got the green light to further expand the farm, which will increase its output by 40%.

GrowUp Farms was the first vertical farm to sell a salad in a UK supermarket when it launched its first salad brand, Fresh Lead Co. into Iceland in February 2023.  It is also the first to sell a vertical farm produced salad range in Tesco, with the launch of Unbeleafable in July.

Hofman does have a wider message for the Government: “Although we are already producing food and selling it through the UK’s biggest supermarket, we are at a disadvantage compared to traditional growers when it comes to access to incentives. Vertical farms are treated as emerging technology which means we cannot benefit from the ‘Sustainable Farming Incentive’ in Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS), which traditional farmers receive to improve their practices.

“If vertical farming continues to be treated as an emerging technology, the government is missing an opportunity to grow the industry, create a sustainable supply chain and deliver the outcomes laid out in the government’s Environment Plan. The extension of ELMS to include vertical farming would create a level playing field for more farming techniques that produce high-quality food and take care of the environment.”

*British Retail Consortium

About GrowUp Farms  

  • GrowUp Farms was founded by Kate Hofman and Tom Webster in 2013 and is a pioneer in UK vertical farming.
  • GrowUp Farms grows its salads in a controlled environment, where the climate provides the plants with perfect conditions. This means it can grow to the best standard all year round and is resilient to climate change.
  • GrowUp Farms is the first vertical farm to introduce a branded salad into a supermarket chain in the UK with the launch of Fresh Leaf Co. in Iceland stores across the country earlier this year.
  • GrowUp Farms’ newest vertical farm is near Sandwich, Kent. It combines innovative farming technology with renewable energy, using electricity and waste heat from the bioenergy plant next door, which means the farm is not affected by the energy price increases squeezing greenhouse and conventional farmers in the UK.
  • GrowUp Farms is B Corp certified with a high B Impact Score of 104.7 points, against the pass threshold of 80 points. The score reflects GrowUp Farms’ commitment to the high standards set by B Corp to achieve social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability in all areas of the business as well as contributing to the economic and social well-being of the communities that GrowUp Farms operates in, alongside a commitment to environmental causes.

Discovery Park selects 13 start-ups to join Discovery Spark life science programme

  • The 8-week programme offers in person training from industry leaders to build strong business foundations and prepare for investment 
  • Finalists have the chance to win a business support package worth over £100,000, including one year of free lab space at Discovery Park and £50,000 investment from Discovery Park Ventures 
  • The winner will be announced at the GIANT Health conference on 5th December 2023 

Thirteen life science start-ups have been accepted onto Discovery Park’s new business support programme and competition, Discovery Spark.  The eight-week Discovery Spark programme will equip the early-stage companies with the necessary skills to catalyse their business growth plans and gives them the chance to win a business support package worth over £100,000. 

The start-ups span across the biotech, digital tech, engineering biology, synthetic biology and medical technology sectors. Participants were chosen by a judging panel that scored the start-ups based on their product or service, opportunity and market, team management, programme fit and investment potential. Taking part in the programme will be 3D Synthesis, Awen, Bing Bong Biologics, BioMavericks, BugBiome, CardioCrown, DLOC Biosystems, Dravya Discovery, KASNMR, Matrix Bio, Rapidx Bio, The Future Care and XR-Musica.  

As part of the programme, Discovery Park will host in-person training sessions, covering topics such as building an excellent team, understanding and conveying business metrics, and branding. The start-ups will also be able to take advantage of opportunities for networking, mentoring, learning from shared experiences and perfecting their investor pitch. The programme will culminate with an investor pitching event sponsored by Discovery Park as part of the GIANT Health conference on 5th December 2023. The start-up with the best pitch at the conference will win a business support package worth over £100,000. The package includes one free year of lab space at Discovery Park and £50,000 investment from Discovery Park Ventures, as well as comprehensive business support and mentoring. 

Discovery Park’s Head of Innovation, Renos Savva, is leading the programme, bringing extensive experience in science entrepreneurship including co-founding Domainex and providing training for life science audiences across academia and industry. He said: “We were overwhelmed by the number of applications for Discovery Spark. The start-ups selected show phenomenal potential and we’re excited to accelerate their growth. Being investor-ready is essential for start-ups and Discovery Spark ensures participants will have the best team, brand image and business know-how by the end of the programme.”  

BugBiome is harnessing the power of the skin microbiome to repel mosquitoes. Most mosquito repellents on the market provide protection for just a few hours and contain persistent synthetic chemicals that can harm the environment. BugBiome aims to utilise natural bacteria that repel mosquitoes to create an effective and safe solution. Alicia Showering, Founder and CEO at BugBiome, said: “We’re passionate about stopping the spread of deadly vector-borne diseases like malaria and Dengue by bringing longer-lasting natural repellents to market. Taking part in Discovery Spark will give us the necessary business tools to make this a reality.”  

Delayed diagnosis of microbial diseases leads 15 million avoidable deaths every year. RapidX has developed a disease detection technology to deliver point of care diagnosis in under 30 minutes. Its technology doesn’t require specialist training to use and has important implications for the targeted treatment of diseases which will be vital to combat microbial drug resistance.   

CardioCrown develops MedTech devices that empower stroke rehabilitation at home. Its integrated rehabilitation technology incorporates virtual reality, functional electrical stimulation and artificial intelligence to help accelerate the recovery of stroke patients. The engaging product will also reduce the time clinicians will have to spend with patients and help stroke units streamline processes. 

Mayer Schreiber, CEO at Discovery Park, commented: “Not only will participants receive business training fine-tuned to life-science start-ups, but also access to Discovery Park’s cutting-edge facilities, where they will have the opportunity to network, ideate and collaborate. Discovery Park is committed to supporting the next generation of life science leaders, and our Discovery Spark programme embodies that.” 

Macmillan Coffee Morning

On Friday 29th September, the New Appointments Group will be hosting their annual Coffee Morning! Opening at 11am, you will find us located just opposite the Social Zone in Innovation House!

You will find, as usual, a whole range of delicious cakes and bakes, both sweet and savoury to purchase and help us raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

The team are already in a competitive spirit to see who can outbake the others, it will be down to you to judge us!

We hope you can make it!

Pizza and Pint Night

An evening of pizza and drinks at the Barclays Eagle Lab in the Gateway Building.

Come visit the space and meet some of the new faces who’ve joined Discovery Park in the last few months!

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Successful Talent Attraction for Early Stage Founders

Are you an early-stage founder eager to attract and retain top talent for your budding venture? Dive deep with us into the heart of building and promoting a compelling Employer Value Proposition (EVP). Discover the intricacies of defining what truly makes your startup or scale-up stand out in a competitive job market. In this transformative seminar, we’ll unpack:

  • The Pillars of a Robust Employer Brand: Understand its essence and the nuances to make your company irresistibly attractive.
  • Crafting a Magnetic EVP: Get hands-on insights to articulate and magnify the unique value your company brings to attract new employees.
  • Strategies to Showcase Your Brand: Learn effective techniques to promote your EVP to the right audience, in the right way.

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Preparing for Business Exit and Freedom Beyond

When your business has been your life, how do you separate the emotional investment to maximise saleability? How and when should you start to think, and plan for those changes? When is best to exit? What can I do now in terms of future proofing?

Does the above resonate? Why not join us for an event which will give you the opportunity to think about these key questions, focus the mind-set to align your business strategy with helpful guidance from industry experts.

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NHS Kent & Medway Innovation Hub Primary Care Reverse Pitching Event

Join us for an exciting Primary Care Innovation Pitch Event where passionate healthcare professionals and entrepreneurs will showcase their groundbreaking ideas and solutions to address real-world challenges in the primary care sector.

This event serves as a platform for innovators to present their ideas, receive valuable feedback, and potentially secure support to bring their projects to fruition.

Fore more information, please contact

Discovery Park Tenant Meeting (tenants only)

Join Discovery Park and your fellow business community to hear about the latest developments and improvements taking place across site, as well as our sustainability projects and upcoming social activities.

The session gives you a chance to meet your neighbours and network in a relaxed setting over lunch.

Please note: this event is for Discovery Park’s business community only.


Genesis 2023

For over two decades, the annual Genesis conference from One Nucleus has brought key Life Science opinion leaders and stakeholders together to debate key trends, instigate deals and generate a vision of the future.

The 2023 Keynote Programme at Genesis will explore how innovation in life science R&D, technology, dealmaking and leadership are leading to patient benefit and value creation for all stakeholders.

Discovery Park will be attending the event.

Click here to register:

Help to grow: Management Course with CCCU

Give your business a competitive edge with the Help to Grow: Management Course

Designed and delivered by entrepreneurs and industry experts at Canterbury Christ Church University business school, this leadership course will provide time away from the challenges of running a business to invest in your leadership, and to learn how to take your business to the next level.

The course runs over 12 weeks and includes online and face-to-face sessions, 1-to-1 mentoring and peer networking.

With just one session a week, it is designed to fit around existing work and personal commitments. You will finish the course ready to lead on the delivery of increased profitability, innovation and growth.

For more information and to register, visit Canterbury Christ Church University Christ Church Business School | Small Business Charter

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