Growing Better CIC

by Rob Moores in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England

To provide support and jobs for people with mental health challenges we're building an indoor hydroponic vertical farm growing micro greens.

by Rob Moores in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England

We did it
On 16th August 2017 we successfully raised £21,010 with 71 supporters in 28 days

New stretch target


Thank you for visiting our crowdfunding page. Thanks to the overwhelming support that we've received from individuals, organisations and Santander's Changemaker Fund we have succeeded in reaching our target. We still have a few hours left to starting biting into our stretch target - and to hand out more great rewards in return for pledges!

What’s this all about ?

We're Growing Better and we support and advocate for people facing mental health challenges by providing therapeutic, social and work opportunities in an urban farming social enterprise.  We're also determined to show that mental health isn't a barrier to business success and so our organisation is a sustainable trading enterprise rather than being reliant on grants. 

With your help we’ll build a hydroponic vertical farm in a shipping container in Leeds to grow micro greens which we will sell to local chefs, specialist wholesalers and retailers, and direct to the public at farmers markets and online.

You can find out more at our web site here

So why do you want to do this ?

In 2016 we had a successful summer growing and selling baby leaf salad and herbs. We provided paid and volunteer work for 8 people, almost all self-identifying as having mental health issues. However, people need support throughout the year not just in the outdoor growing season - and that's the main driver behind our project - to create an urban farm that produces food, employment and better mental health all year round.

There's plenty of evidence that growing produce is good for your mental health, for example:

On top of that, being a part of our Growing Better team reduces isolation and stress, improves confidence and self-esteem, provides skills and work experience and encourages peer support - all of which help improve mental health and social and work re-integration.

On a broader level, as urban farmers we want to help build a sustainable, local, independent food ecosystem, reduce food miles, develop innovative and non-toxic ways of growing food, and support community growing.

What will you use the funds for exactly?

Our plan is to grow in an insulated shipping container – and this is what our project will specifically fund. It will enable us to employ the equivalent of 3 full time people (more likely 5-6 part-time given our focus on recruiting people with mental health problems), and run 6-12 week work and social integration programmes for many more.

All the money we raise will go towards buying the shipping container, racks, trays, and irrigation and lighting systems we need to operate our farm on a commercial basis. It doesn't come cheap - professional horticultural lighting costs around £200 per square metre of growing space and our container will have 30 square metres of growing space!

Can you make a success of this ?

Yes we can!  We believe that a successful social enterprise has to be a successful enterprise first in order to be able to deliver on its social mission - and so we've put a lot of effort into validating our business model and plan, and in finding the right business partners.

We have a very experienced team behind this project, most of whom have lived experience of mental health problems...

  • Rob Moores: has run several successful businesses, worked at a major grocery retailer (Asda) for several years, and looks after planning and operations. 
  • Andrew Critchett: founded the award-winning street food business Fish& and heads up our community engagement and sales efforts. He has extensive connections across the food and drink sector, from chefs and suppliers to journalists and bloggers - and following a lot of sampling we’re confident that we can get our product into a lot of kitchens, and onto lots and lots of plates.
  • Trish Cliff: Trish is an urban farmer who is passionate about the benefits of connecting people to growing food and a member of the Association for Vertical Farming UK Policy Project Group. Trish blogs at TrishTravelFood

Growing Better is a company limited by guarantee - we have members rather than shareholders. We are also registered as a Community Interest Company (CIC). We set the business up in this way to provide confidence in our commitment to our social mission (especially with reference to the CIC asset lock).

Who else is involved in this ?

Although new to many people, hydroponics is well understood in the horticultural industry. Our partners include TCE - the team that designed and built the very successful Growing Underground vertical farm in London.

Will this work?

We're as certain as we'll ever be: we've been in trials for the past 3 months, working out what grows best under what conditions, how to manage food safety - and what customers want to buy. 

Our customers think so too! We've got our produce trialling in a couple of local grocers, samples to and commitment from some of the top restaurants in Leeds, and four regional wholesalers interested in buying from us, one of whom has agreed to take 40% of what we can produce at full capacity.

What happens next?

We already have a secure location in Leeds for the container - and in return for developing a community farm on the site we will only pay rent when we make a profit.

We have a detailed blueprint of our growing systems, customers ready to purchase and additional job roles ready to advertise. We also have a contract with Leeds Community Foundation to run a pilot mental health improvement programme.

Please help us build our urban farm with your donation so that we can provide support, real jobs and a better future for people learning to better manage mental health challenges. We've got some great rewards for you and plenty of good karma - and microgreens - to hand out!

Rewards

This project offers rewards in return for your donation.

£5 or more

£5 Reward

Become part of our Growing Better family! We’ll send you a beautiful certificate to hang on your wall, an invitation to our launch party, lots of good karma and your name on our web site Wall of Wellbeing (you can remain anonymous if you prefer). We’ll also keep you in the loop with updates, pictures and live streaming

£10 or more

£10 Reward

As for £5 PLUS a packet of Growing Better micro greens seeds, complete with instructions, and some tasting notes prepared in conjunction with some of Leeds' top chefs so you can rustle up a great meal with your micro greens!

£20 or more

£20 Reward

As for £5 PLUS a Micro Box containing a selection of micro green seeds, growing media and instructions on how to grow your own fresh micro greens - and £5 worth of discount vouchers to use online or at a local retailer

£25 or more

£25 Reward

As for £20 PLUS your name on the outside of the shipping container and a video tour of the vertical farm via an email link

£35 or more

£35 Reward

As for £25 PLUS a delivery of our delicious fresh micro greens within Leeds (LS postcodes only) in a Growing Better tote bag (vouchers available if you live too far away)

£50 or more

£50 Reward

As for £35 PLUS two tickets for a visit to our vertical farm with Growing Better’s founders and a taste of our freshly growing micro greens (vouchers available if you live too far away)

£50 or more

£50 Reward

Food Trade Pledgers: Micro greens vouchers to the value of your pledge, valid for 12 months

£100 or more

£100 Reward

As for £75 PLUS two VIP tickets to our opening ceremony / media launch party and £20 worth of discount vouchers for our produce to use online or at a local retailer

£100 or more

£100 Reward

Food Trade Pledgers: Micro greens vouchers to the value of your pledge, valid for 12 months

£250 or more

£250 Reward

As for £100 PLUS a dedicated tasting and tour of our vertical farm for up to four people, with Growing Better's founders, and a beer-pairing experience with one of Leeds' top independent brewers!

£250 or more

£250 Reward

Food Trade Pledgers: Micro greens vouchers to the value of your pledge, valid for 12 months

£500 or more

£500 Reward

As for £250 PLUS lunch with Growing Better's founders at a local bistro restaurant that uses our produce, complete with a tutored wine tasting to wash it all down!

£1,500 or more

0 of 2 claimed

£1,500 Reward

As for £250 PLUS a "Chefs table" lunch with Growing Better's founders at the highly rated Ox Club in Leeds city centre.

£2,000 or more

£2,000 Reward

As for £1000 PLUS you get to cut the ribbon at our opening ceremony and share in the razzmataz of the day - all after a night for two in a city centre hotel and dinner with Growing Better's founders! Alternatively for a corporate, we will provide a programme of corporate team-building and wellbeing activities, and a designation as a corporate sponsor for 6 months.

£3,500 or more

£3,500 Reward

As for £2000 PLUS designation as a corporate sponsor for 12 months, and priority to invest in Growing Better as we finance future growth opportunities

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