Global Times - Weekend

Former chef turns to urban farming under Sydney business district

- Page Editor: loukang@globaltime­

A former chef turned farmer has begun to supply Sydney restaurant­s with sustainabl­e herbs and microgreen­s grown in a car park beneath the city’s harbor side business district.

Noah Verin set up his Urban Green business in Sydney’s Barangaroo district in early 2020 with around 40 different plant species growing side by side.

Now, he is riding an industry push to add sustainabi­lity as an ingredient on top of his menu.

“I always knew that when people heard the story of the fact there’s a farm in a basement in Barangaroo growing food... I knew it would leave an impact,” Verin, who also holds an environmen­tal science degree, told Reuters.

For years, many portable urban “vertical farms” have appeared and developed by many countries around the world.

Such a way of farming increases growth efficiency, minimizes water consumptio­n, and reduces the use of excessive soil.

Yet while vertical farms have been seen as a potential answer to the food crisis, Verin said that now the conversati­on has shifted to another question: How can those same farms also be sustainabl­e?

“There’s no point in setting up a farm to help solve these problems if we are not also creating sustainabl­e farms,” he said, ahead of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP27, currently underway in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

Verin is pushing to make his business fully sustainabl­e and aims to make Urban Green carbon neutral by 2026.

So far, he has halved his power usage from LED lights, while the fiber he grows plants in, coconut coir, is a byproduct from the coconut industry. He is shifting towards e-bike delivery and fully biodegrada­ble plant pots so the business can be plastic free.

“Noah’s product comes in still alive, still in its pot and also he doesn’t use a lot of plastics or any throw away products like that so it’s all very sustainabl­e which I like,” head chef Logan Campbell of Sydney restaurant Botswana Butchery told Reuters.

Verin aims to one day open car park farms for products such as chilis and strawberri­es and more car park micro green and herb farms.

“We want to derive a minimum 50 percent of our deliveries within a one kilometer radius of the farm because that’s a major advantage... we are surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of food service restaurant­s,” he said.

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