Johnathan Ransom of Square Mile Farms started with the concept of ‘flat pack farms’ for urban areas and now, through its Office Farming model, is bringing vertical, urban farms to workplaces of big businesses to help them achieve their sustainability and employee wellbeing goals.
He was due to speak at the Agri-TechE event “Controlled Environment Agriculture – The Industry is Growing Up”, which had to be postponed, and a condensed version, CEA Lite, is to be held on 10th September 2020.
A lot has happened in the industry in recent months and – as Square Mile Farms announces their crowdfunding campaign on Seedrs – we caught up with Johnathan to see what progress Square Mile Farms has made.
After receiving an invitation from British Land, Square Mile Farms opened its flagship farm in June 2019 on the roof of Microsoft’s London HQ at Paddington Central – and then came lockdown. What has happened at Paddington Central since then?
During the lockdown we temporarily moved farm operations to our homes! We’ve since got our Paddington rooftop farm back up and running and are growing plants in order to be ready to transplant into our clients’ office farms once they are back.
With most people at home, and many trying their hand at growing at home we’ve also been using this time to share our knowledge, by producing a series of blogs including how-to guides and troubleshooting common home-growing issues. Our community is important to us and part of our mission is to help urban communities grow their own!
Have your plans for the business changed at all during the coronavirus pandemic?
Coronavirus hasn’t altered our business plans. If anything it has further highlighted the debate around the future of the workplace and put the emphasis on the employer to provide a reason to be in the office. Offices, more now than ever, have to be designed around the employee’s lifestyle and provide for their wellbeing, drive engagement and foster creativity.
Our Office Farming model transforms offices and workplaces into green, inviting spaces, creating workplaces of the future. We create a workplace community centred around urban farming through engagement, workshops and knowledge sharing, helping our customers create a culture of sustainable, low impact living.
Looking wider – has it increased momentum/made people consider the benefits of shorter supply chains?
Without a doubt. If food security and the damage the conventional food supply chain does to the environment weren’t a priority before COVID, they absolutely are now. The conventional food system has a devastating impact on the environment and on biodiversity.
The key to changing this is by growing closer to the consumer both to improve supply chain resilience, but also to re-engage the consumer, to encourage them to make better choices.
How many urban consumers appreciate the impact that transporting fresh produce long distances has on its nutritional value for instance?
Some of today’s illnesses can be linked back to the lack of understanding we have of the relationship between our bodies and what we put into them. We have to do more to educate ourselves on this relationship and urban farming can play a big part in that.
We understand that you are planning a crowdfunding round, what is it for and how much do you need?
We’ve spent the last 16 months building a platform from which to grow our business. We have had early success with clients such as British Land, Grosvenor Estates and Vodafone and have a vision of every business having vertical farms in their office, to create a culture of healthy, sustainable living.
In order to take the business forward we need to invest in our team, technology and profile in order to deliver on the exciting opportunities in our pipeline.
It’s an exciting time to be involved in urban farming, and even more so in the context of the debate around the future of the workplace, given our Office Farming model. We want to share the opportunities this creates with others that share our passion, which is why we’re crowdfunding.
You can see more information about our crowdfunding campaign on Seedrs here.
More information about Square Mile Farms.