Just in time for this year’s winter season, vertical farmer April Sun launched its range of sustainably grown microgreens from its new commercial-sized micro-farming facility in Melbourne.
With a philosophy of true sustainability and paired with cutting-edge technology, the local farm wants to provide the community with a range of nutrient-packed microgreens available year-round to their nearby community.
Co-founder Darren Nichol, April Sun visionary of Australia’s cleanest and highest nutritional food supply who has a wealth of knowledge due to his agricultural background, says, “This is a particular focus of the Darebin Council. They have an actual goal to increase food production within its municipality.”
These super foods are grown without pesticides and utilise 95 per cent less water than traditional farming methods due to a hydroponic based (closed loop) watering system. Co-founder Ty Dickson, April Sun technologist and facility designer, said this system guarantees the plants do not receive too little or too much water.
“The watering targets each individual plant or root system and is drained back to the holding tanks,” he said. “Traditional farming methods would see water being lost to the ground and you would use more water to achieve the same level of fertigation without the ability to recapture the excess.”
With custom-spectrum lights developed in-house, the microgreens are grown in their ideal conditions, allowing for year-round production and minimal waste.
“We use a combination of specific wavelengths of blue, red, far red and full spectrum light to stimulate the chlorophyll A and B of the plants, while giving the right signals to ensure proper colour, increased nutrients through stress and, above all, a very healthy plant,” Dickson said.
“We are a non-single use plastics company; we opt for PLA compostable packaging. Our facility uses the highest efficiency components and equipment available. We do run on electricity, although we are engaging in using 100% renewables, and are in preliminary talks with the Darebin Council to implement 100kW of solar panels on our warehouse roof.” said Dickson.
In traditional farming, external factors such as drought, pollution, soil erosion and more can impact crop success. However, the world of vertical farming is “most often done indoors in a controlled environment”, he adds. “Vertical farming when done sustainably has less impact on the environment, there are significant reductions in water usage, land usage, gas usage and many other resources. This is all achieved whilst controlling the indoor growing environment with minimal impact to it outside.”
“By controlling every factor in the plant’s environment, you end up with a high-quality product on a number of levels,” said Nichol.
“We can grow to a timeline and the removal of variables such as the weather allows us to more accurately forecast and grow to our customers’ demands. This can reduce the amount of waste and also increase consistency of supply to customers. This is a huge problem for traditional farming and is the cause for the large price jumps and shortages of produce on the market.”
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