Kate Hofman quit her job as a management consultant for IBM to start an urban farm business in London, after discovering aquaponics, a system that facilitates the farming of fresh fish and vegetables at inner city locations. She set up GrowUp Urban Farms a year ago, building its first test farm as part of the Chelsea Fringe Festival in May 2013. ‘We opened to the public so people could see how it’s possible to grow fresh vegetables without soil, chemical fertilisers or pesticides, and also to produce fish sustainably.’ Hofman and business partner Tom Webster have also built the UK’s first ‘box farm’, an upcycled shipping container with a greenhouse on top. ‘Urban farming is all about supporting cities and reconnecting people who live in them to where their food comes from.’
Wallpaper*: How much of your working day is spent outdoors?
Kate Hofman: I’m often on my bike, travelling from home to office, office to farm, and farm to meeting. On days when I’m working at the GrowUp Box I get to be outside (or inside the greenhouse) all day.
W*: What essentials do you carry when you travel?
KH: A bottle of water, my laptop, notepad, phone charger, a KeepCup, so I don’t have to use disposable coffee cups…and my lunch. I always have things to fix or tinker with at the GrowUp Box so I’ve had a Swiss Army knife on my key ring for as long as I can remember. The Victorinox Explorer Damast Limited Edition is my latest. I carry my laptop everywhere so the Victorinox Altmont TM 3.0 Laptop Backpack is perfect. There’s lots of space for other things in there too. I wear a Victorinox Protect Navigation Jacket - it’s rainproof for when I’m cycling around town.
W*: Why do you live in London, and what inspires or infuriates you about the city?
KH: There is so much opportunity and I think that’s partly to do with the mix of people and industries and interests that create a great atmosphere for innovation. As a cyclist, I’m infuriated by the lack of separate cycle lanes.
W* As an Urban Outsider, how would you cope if stranded on a desert island?
KH: I can grow food. Also, I love sushi so I’d be OK with having to eat raw fish. I suspect I’d miss the buzz of the city.
W*: What is your most useful practical skill?
KH: I can gut, scale and fillet a tilapia…
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