Invercargill has its own ‘urban vertical farm’ business in the form of micro greens, herbs and edible flowers – which started in a garage. Benji Biswas started ‘Crunchy’ over a year ago to provide local restaurants and cafes with locally grown fresh micro greens, and since then the whole operation has evolved.
“I want to build a farm right inside the city, to reduce the carbon footprint. And then also, it stays the most fresh, and adds great nutritional value to our food…”
Vertical farms have started to spring up in a number of major urban centres, where crops are grown close to where people consume them – in high rise buildings, derelict buildings and abandoned warehouses – reducing carbon emissions and maximising unused spaces.
Crops are grown without the need for spray because they are safe inside where the bugs can’t get them.
Since lockdown, Benji said he has changed his strategy slightly, wanting to create a 100% waste-free sustainable business, “and we are well on the way to achieving that goal.”
Through his reusable packaging container model, he has saved over 16,000 plastic packaging only in one year, “a big thanks to all the local cafe and restaurants for supporting us to implement this model,” he said.
He has also started diversifying his products and is able produce rocket, mesclun, coriander, parsley and many more.
Now supplying over 30 cafes and restaurants locally twice a week, the other positive to urban vertical farming was that he didn’t have to worry about seasons.
Therefore, the produce was able to be grown year round and at a stable price to the customer.
An Indian-national, Benji came to New Zealand seven years ago through a John Write Sports and Academic Scholarship from SIT, and only learnt to speak English since then.
“New Zealand is my home by choice – it’s a great community to live, work and thrive.”
The former electronics & Instrumentation engineer, has now built his own grower machine to make life easier.
The third thing he learnt in lockdown was how important it was to live a balanced life – now making sure he used his time effectively, and enjoying family life.