Former mushroom farmer Brian O’Reilly and his brother Aidan have launched the first commercial hydroponic farm in Ireland to grow basil, baby leaf mixes and microgreens 365 days a year.
The brothers will be operating under the new Emerald Greens brand, using hydroponics indoor farming technology to grow crops sustainably year-round from their rural base in Ballyporeen, Co Tipperary.
The 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, about 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.
Managing director Brian O'Reilly established his mushroom-growing business in Ballyporeen in 1999.
He recently pivoted into vertical farming and converted one of his eight growing tunnels into a hydroponic facility using a Sanabio vertical farming system acquired from Dublin company Farmony.
Plans are already under way to begin growing microgreens in a second tunnel before the end of the year and further tunnels will be added in 2022.
The O’Reillys' decision to move into vertical farming was prompted by the opportunity to maintain year-round production with better margins and less reliance on UK exports post-Brexit.
O’Reilly commented: “This deal with Compass Ireland is a game-changer for our new vertical business at a critical time in our development. We are no longer export-dependent as a business.
"Instead, we are showing other producers a more sustainable way of growing a greater range of fresh green produce here in Ireland for the local market.”
Vertical farming allows growers to produce fresh greens here in Ireland, which would otherwise be imported
Managing director at Compass Group Ireland Deirdre O’Neill commented: “Emerald Greens is at the forefront of Ireland's grassroots movement towards more sustainable food production.
“Vertical farming allows growers to produce fresh greens here in Ireland, which would otherwise be imported. It requires less land and uses up to 10 times less water than traditional soil crops, through recycling and reuse.
“Our decision to support Ireland’s first commercial vertical farmer is about supporting the changes that are happening on the ground today for a sustainable tomorrow.”