Urban micro-farms for homegrown herbs, spices and salad leaves are being leased to food industry professionals looking to reduce dependency on suppliers.
Transformed from old shipping containers, the groLOCAL systems provide an alternative solution for large scale grocery, food chains, and healthy food providers, according to managing partner David Charitos.
Plants grow in a nutrient solution instead of soil in the system that significantly reduces farm to fork time, he tells PBUK.
“The demand for micro-greens is considerable. Everyday celebrity TV chefs and restaurant executive chefs are adding them to menus and this is driving interest and demand from consumers and other chefs,” he says.
“But these things don’t travel well, if at all. The best solution is to grow your own. However without the right equipment this can be a time consuming frustrating process. So a local source is deemed essential but, until we came along, lacking in most parts of the UK.
“The groSTORE is delivered pre assembled as a fully operating urban-micro-farm with a footprint of 0.80 m2, with the capability to grow c.600 30g punnets of microgreens and herbs each month at a RRP of £2.75 each.”
Charitos provides full training but stresses the groSTORE “just needs to be plugged in”, while water and nutrients need to be added.
“We charge a peppercorn rental of just £1 per month and then the client just needs to order “just add water” seed punnets via the groLOCAL website. When the seed punnets arrive they place them onto the groSTORE, and allow the produce to grow. They can use it as either a point of sale unit or a back-room unit. Most produce is suitable for sale in seven to 21 days.”
The urban farming units tap into Britain’s increasing trend for local food production as well as growing interest in nutrient-rich produce like herbs and microgreens including micro coriander, mustard greens, Italian basil, red shiso and sunflower shoots.
Target sectors includes farm shops, delis, independent food retailers, schools and prisons as well as vegan, vegetarian and health conscious consumers everywhere, adds Charitos.
“We believe that urban Farming can already significantly contribute to humanitarian aid by blending high density nutrition with low nutrient density foods to create a subsistence diet.
“Sunflower shoots in particular offer possibilities for humanitarian aid – as the seeds are light and easy to transport. Within 10 days of hydroponic farming they can create one of the healthiest whole foods available and some of these hardy plants can be allowed to grow to full maturity for self sustaining on-site seed production.
“Standing out from the crowd in the food market can be a challenge. But having the ability to grow your own spice, greens, and herbs can mean you have something different to offer customers and really gives you the flexibility to try different flavours, knowing that all the ingredients are fresh. Having the option to grow some of the produce used means cutting down on expenses in the long run too.”