Meet the mushroom producer turned vertical farmer

A former mushroom farmer, now said to be Ireland's first commercial vertical farmer, has signed a contract with foodservice provider, Compass Group Ireland.

The foodservice provider is supporting Brian O’Reilly, a former mushroom farmer and his brother Aidan, who have launched the first commercial hydroponic farm in Ireland to grow basil, baby leaf mixes and microgreens 365 days a year.

Operating under the new Emerald Greens brand, the brothers are using cutting-edge indoor farming technology to grow crops sustainably year-round from their base in Ballyporeen, Co. Tipperary.

Crops are grown in soil-free vertical layers in former mushroom tunnels using hydroponics. The system combines a nutrient-rich water supply with low-energy LED lighting, optimising indoor growing conditions without the need for pesticides.

Compass Ireland will use 25% of the basil produced each week by Emerald Greens – approximately 200kg – in fresh healthy meals for client companies around the country.

As a result, Emerald Greens will see production capacity rise by 20%, allowing the O’Reillys to expand their vertical farming business with the addition of a second growing tunnel.

Compass Ireland is also partnering with Ross Hazel Farm, a fruit and vegetable producer in Co. Meath, to convert former mushroom growing tunnels on its Clonard site into vertical farming units.

Ross Hazel Farm is run by Lynsay Orton, who has been a Compass Ireland supplier since 2016. She works in partnership with Compass Ireland to cultivate sustainable seasonal vegetables while also developing environmentally friendly growing methods to increase biodiversity on her farm.

With Compass Ireland’s support, she will now be able grow vegetables sustainably year-round. The partnerships with the O’Reillys and Orton are part of Compass Ireland’s commitment to promoting sustainable production practices across its supply chain, as outlined in the company’s recently published Net Zero plan.

Read the full story in Agritech Future