Two re-purposed shipping containers, fitted with a ‘Farmony’ agritech unit – 55m² in size, can produce 55,000 heads of lettuce per year or 408 trays of micro greens per week.
John Paul Prior sees these “5ac farms” as a way to compliment an existing farming enterprise.
His vision is to have as many Farmony models as possible, complimenting an existing enterprise for example and providing another income, all while replacing food imports into the country.
These salads, herbs and micro greens will be grown using hydroponic technology – no soil involved – and will be highly nutritious and free of pesticides.
That IT input into the farm provides a controlled environment.
Anyone who owns a Farmony solution can control it from anywhere in the world with a mobile device. The controlled environment means no pesticides are used and growth cycles are efficient.
Salads and micro greens are grown inside this controlled environment
“The growing season in Ireland is obviously from May to September. In a Farmony, a producer can grow all year round – 365 days a year,” John Paul explained.
This provides a whole new window of opportunity for Irish growers to have a continuous supply of fresh and local produce.
The business model allows for crops to be grown in small spaces. Restaurants could have their own source of salads and herbs all year round for example.
A restaurant’s beef supplier could provide the beef, the herbs to season it and the salad to accompany it.
“With micro greens your grow cycle is just six-to-seven days, so in terms of output one module can grow 24 trays of micro-greens per week and multiply that by 17 and you’re at 408 trays of micro-greens every week, so it’s an impressive output.”
At present, Ireland is heavily dependent on imports in this sector, which can be clearly seen on the supermarket shelves.
“We’re encouraging people to apply for the horticultural grant in 2020,” John Paul noted.
“The country imports about €300 million worth of produce, so we’re trying to basically offer a solution for producers to replace those imports.
You’re talking about hyper-local produce. These farms could be placed in urban centres or farmyards.
John Paul noted that while there are some farming sectors struggling at the minute, one of his company’s solutions could fit into a current farm business.
John Paul estimates a total workload of 25-30 hours/week and noted that there is a 40% grant available to set up the farm.
The system can also be used in an existing farm building. Mushroom houses, which are no longer in use for example, are ideal for these modules.