Lendlease and Crate to Plate Lead Urban Farming Revolution

09/03/2022

When Lendlease partnered with innovative urban farming venture Crate to Plate at Elephant Park, it proved so successful that the partnership is now expanding to International Quarter London, with plans for additional sites. Collaborating with brands that are championing sustainability, tackling climate change and helping build healthier communities supports Lendlease’s wider sustainability commitments.

10 tonnes of fresh, local produce annually

Supplying local residents and businesses

Low carbon footprint

Growing community opportunities

Situation
 

Lendlease is currently delivering a series of major developments across London. Recognising that this would result in some spaces being temporarily available, pending development, Lendlease completed an internal study into creative short-term uses of these spaces to bring environmental, social and economic value to communities, also known as ‘meanwhile uses’. This identified Crate to Plate as an ideal partner. 

Crate to Plate was founded with the mission of bringing sustainable, local production of leafy greens to urban communities. Its vertical farming method means produce can be grown locally in urban environments all year round, reducing carbon emissions, water, land use and chemicals, compared with traditional agriculture practices. 

In August 2021, Lendlease welcomed its first Crate to Plate farm to Elephant Park, a new residential and retail area for South London. Centred around a new two-acre park, Elephant Park will offer 3,000 new homes when completed in 2026, with space for over 50 shops, restaurants and cafés. Lendlease’s ambition for the project has always been to set new standards for sustainable urban development, and partnering with Crate to Plate is just one example of  it delivering on that commitment. 

Actions

Two purpose-built 40ft containers were placed on site at Elephant Park. Inside, hydroponic technology grows plants in a controlled environment. This eco-friendly innovation uses 95% less water than traditional farming and a fraction of the land, with no need for soil, pesticides or chemicals. Each container yields over five tonnes of fresh produce per year – the same production as over an acre of farmland.

Plants are tended by two farmers, including a local Southwark resident, who carefully monitor and regulate conditions based on the lifecycle needs of each crop – from temperature, humidity and LED lighting to water, nutrients and airflow. There are up to 10,000 different ‘light recipes’ and alerts if controlled conditions veer from regulation.

Once mature, crops are harvested and delivered within 24 hours to local people and businesses using electric vehicles. Produce is also available daily via click and collect and quickly distributed to cafés and restaurants at Elephant Park, such as Bobo Social, which has created a special salad using Crate to Plate ingredients. 

Building on this success, Lendlease and Crate to Plate are now expanding their partnership to International Quarter London, a vibrant new 22-acre business neighbourhood in Stratford. They are also in discussions at additional sites.

Financial

Lendlease has partnered with Crate to Plate to provide space where urban farms can pop up for an agreed period, before plots are developed. Fresh produce is sold locally at market rates.

Benefits

Crate to Plate at Elephant Park produces over 10 tonnes of leafy greens, salads, vegetables and herbs annually, including lettuce, rocket and basil. This creates environmental, social and economic benefits:

  • Low footprint: Hydroponic technology uses 95% less water than traditional farming. Crops are also delivered locally by electric van – reducing transport miles and emissions – with zero plastic packaging. Contrast this with high-emission conventional models (more than 70% of fruit and vegetables in the UK is imported).
  • Community: Local residents can enjoy fresh produce at home or in local restaurants, such as Bobo Social. Not only does this solve traceability issues and cut food miles, it also nurtures a sense of ownership and collaboration, and offers another way for the community to embrace a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.
  • High quality: Fresh, local produce, grown with minimal water and delivered in hours has the highest possible nutrient value, bursting with flavour and fragrance. Totally organic, using zero pesticides and chemicals, it also has no need for the preservatives typically used when transporting goods to supermarkets.
  • Climate action: As traditional farming faces the challenge of feeding a growing population and adapting to climate change, models such as Crate to Plate are redefining agriculture, making crops lower impact and less vulnerable to unpredictable conditions, with supply available all year round.
  • Education: Urban farms offer opportunities to engage local children and residents around where their food comes from and give them the chance to taste fresh produce and learn about healthy lifestyles, playing a part in tackling the obesity crisis. Lendlease and Crate to Plate are working on an educational programme. 
  • Innovation: Lendlease is boosting the growth of a start-up challenging traditional farming methods, supporting the development of new technologies for a more sustainable future. 

This all supports Lendlease’s commitment to lead the evolution of its industry to be truly sustainable – environmentally, socially and economically. It also marks a positive step towards Elephant Park’s wider ambition to become one of London’s greenest and most sustainable neighbourhoods.
 

Sebastien Sainsbury, Crate to Plate founder: “At Crate to Plate, we believe everyone should have access to the freshest produce within 15 minutes of their homes and we’re thrilled to be making that available to local residents at visitors to Elephant Park. With a growing emphasis on healthy living, Crate to Plate is helping achieve a more sustainable living culture and further sense of community across the neighbourhood.”

Kristy Lansdown, Project Director at Lendlease: “Crate to Plate is a great addition to our local and independent mix of tenants and meanwhile use businesses at Elephant Park. It perfectly complements our vision for building a vibrant community with sustainability at the heart and we’re excited to be giving our residents and locals access to such a forward-thinking urban farm concept in zone one London that will help them on their own journey towards a more sustainable and healthy way of life.” 

Challenges & Achievements

TIMINGS

 

How to plan and adapt as development programmes change?

Navigating shifting development timescales can be one of the biggest challenges on meanwhile projects. It is not always clear at the outset how long spaces will be available for and this can change as the project progresses. Lendlease has the flexibility of multiple sites. So, if development plans change, the team can explore opportunities on other sites, although the first preference is always to try to accommodate projects elsewhere on the same site. Well-managed urban farms also tend to be welcomed by local councils and communities, as they add social value rather than leaving land vacant, so they usually progress through planning fairly quickly, facilitating the process. 

ENGAGEMENT

 

How to engage with local residents and restaurants?
 

Lendlease engages with the community on Crate to Plate through a resident app and online portal, where residents can also order produce. All the local restaurants know that Crate to Plate is on the estate and have met the farmers. The project has received widespread media coverage, including on the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen show and in local news. Lendlease is now exploring opportunities to use a vacant space to create a community and engagement hub, where the farmers can host workshops and growing sessions, engaging with local schoolchildren, residents and businesses. The team is also looking at broadcasting footage from webcams inside the farms onto the hoardings at International Quarter London. 

 

“Lendlease is committed to leading the evolution of our industry to be truly sustainable – environmentally, socially and economically. Crate to Plate share our vision for healthy, vibrant communities with sustainability at their heart, so we’re pleased to work with them at Elephant Park and look forward to welcoming them at our other sites in the future.” 

Guy Thomas, Head of Place Assets at Lendlease