This week we talk to Rob and Lee-Ann, founders of Herb and Bloom.

Herb & Bloom is London’s most central vertical farm. We specialise in the growing of microgreens and edible flowers and pride ourselves on delivering a best in class product to our local London clients, with the absolute minimum of associated food miles.

What is Urban Farming?

Urban farming is essentally growing food in built up areas, but it spans a broad range of practises and techniques. Many, like ourselves, choose to utilise modern hydroponics technologies to facilitate growing their produce indoors – a fundamental step for making inner city food production practical, and most importantly sustainable. Having a controlled environment allows us to grow our crops with minimal intervention and with significant reductions to the use of resources that traditional farming practises require.

An image of urban farmes Rob and Lee Ann who founded Herb and Bloom

Why did you start Herb and Bloom?

Herb & Bloom comes from a passion for quality food, and the importance to both of us of having a fully traceable product that hasn’t been manipulated or interfered with in any way. We see a real future in urban farming, because it allows the re-localisation of food production, and with that a real connection can be made between the grower and the consumer – something that is often missing within urban centres in particular, but which plays a hugely important role in the understanding and appreciation of the food that we consume.

Why did you chose to get a Start Up Loan from Virgin StartUp?

We were interested in the Virgin StartUp Loan because of the invaluable pool of resources and support that are offered alongside the loans. We really believe in the value of drawing on advice and experience of those around us, and it was reassuring to know that if we were successful, our lender would be taking an interest and investment in supporting us to get established, helping us to avoid some of the typical pitfalls of starting up a new venture.

What have been you biggest successes so far?

Business has been great so far, we are 6 months into operations and have been slowly building our client base. From day 1 we've always wanted to provide the very best product to market, and steady organic growth has been fundamental to us maintaining standards as we’ve taken on new clients. We were very fortunate to have received the support of a local Michelin starred restaurant in the first month of trading, which really gave us a boost of confidence and reassurance of achieving those goals.

Last month we established a working partnership with one of the most well regarded food purveyors in the industry, which opens up our access and exposure to hundreds of restaurants and caterers across London. It has also ensured that we have demand for our products well beyond our current capacity, which means we now can begin the process of securing additional funds for an expansion.

 

Herb and Bloom took out a £25k loan to fund their urban farming startup

What are the biggest challenges you face?

Juggling our time effectively is one of the hardest challenges we’ve faced during these early stages of the business. Despite all our technology, we are still fundamentally farmers and there is a lot of work that goes into making sure our crops grow, look and, most importantly, taste their absolute best. We take a lot of pride in what we do and to do it well takes time and attention. This can potentially take time away from the nurture and development the business as a whole requires, and ensuring a good balance is kept between the two has been key.

This sector is growing rapidly, what are your ambitions for Herb and Bloom in the next five years?

The most important thing for us at this moment is to ensure that we maintain standards whilst we grow. That said, we are very excited about some of the developments in the field right now, which are pushing the boundaries ever closer to being able to viably grow a much broader range of produce within urban environments. As our business grows we intend to stay abreast of those technological innovations and diversify into other foods, such as soft fruits – perhaps even in a couple of years, you might find London-grown strawberries on the menu!

We have a vision to connect closely with our local community, and we hope that in five year’s time we’ll have established a wide network of contacts and collaborations with other businesses, schools and residents within our immediate area and London itself.

 

What would you say to a potential customer who hasn’t tried your products yet?

Microgreens are plants harvested in the very early stages of their lives. The reason we do this is that a huge amount the nutrients and flavour compounds a plant contains are stored within the seed itself and when harvested at the ‘micro’ stage, these nutrients and flavours are concentrated within the crop, providing a unexpected and intense burst of flavour with up to forty times the nutritional value of their fully grown counterparts.

Visit the Herb and Bloom site

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