London Brewery Plants Vertical Strawberry Farm

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CONTENT SOURCED FROM EVENING STANDARD

Camden Town Brewery has partnered with Rootlabs, which builds urban farms, to launch the UK's first brewery-based vertical farm at its Enfield site. 

The sustainable farming method - which sees the strawberries grown in columns - will help the north London brewery produce seasonal crops to add to its popular selection of lagers. First up, the brew house is trialling a crop of 200 strawberry plants, which will eventually be added to its seasonal beer Strawberry Hells Forever. 

The lager is currently brewed using strawberries from the local area in Enfield. 

Jasper Cuppaidge, founder and chief executive of Camden Town Brewery, told the Standard the move was part of a continued drive to be a sustainable business.

"We're going to learn how we can make the future of brewing more sustainable, by sustainably growing our own strawberries," he explained.

"Enfield as a site is totally carbon neutral so this made sense, to use ingredients that we create on site." 

He added: "We are built on a very small site. Space [in London] is at a premium. It makes sense to use space that we are not using.

"If we can go vertical, let's do that."

Camden Town's Enfield site already features a solar-panelled roof, energy storing heating equipment and a recycled water system.

The vertical farm will offer a unique method of growing sustainable produce at the brewery, bringing ingredients closer to the point of consumption and cutting the firm's carbon footprint.

It also helps reduce wastage as perishable produce can often become damaged in transit. 

As the strawberries were planted this week the crop is too late for this summer's brew, which is available to buy from June 16, however the team is aiming to use the fruits next year. 

The farm uses aeroponics technology - a way of growing without soil. Plants are suspended in towers and their roots are misted with a highly nutritious substance. 

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Rootlabs co-founder Sam Cox said this method of farming allows the team to grow 10 times the amount of strawberry plants possible using traditional farming methods. 

"You can typically plant approximately seven strawberry plants per square metre using traditional farming methods. In our vertical farm we are able to fit 70 plants per square metre," he said. 

Vertical farming was created to transform spaces into socially and environmentally productive places, with the method allowing for year-round organic crop production with less exposure to chemicals.

Thanks to a "closed-loop" system, the towers will use 90 per cent less water than traditional farming, and Rootlabs uses only natural deterrents against pests.

And the fresh produce looks attractive. With 20 towers situated in front of Camden Town's brewing tanks, visitors will see "a dense wall of strawberries" when the crop bears fruit.

Mr Cuppaidge said he is looking forward to exploring different crops throughout autumn, winter and spring for a collection of seasonal beers. 

Rootlabs said it is looking to restock the system with hardier herbs such as thyme and rosemary in the colder months. 

A donation of 20p from every can of Strawberry Hells Forever will go towards Rootlab's sister company GrowUp Community Farms, which raises awareness of new urban farming technologies through workshops at its Bermondsey site.

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Strawberry Hells Forever is a summer take on the brewery's Hells Lager, made using fresh strawberry puree.

Rootlabs' previous projects have included the Farmbus, a pick-your-own farm and plant shop based at Mercato Metropolitano in Elephant and Castle. 

Camden Town Brewery is a leading brewery based in north London. Its original brewery is located in Kentish Town West, while its Enfield site opened last summer.

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