Emerald Greens to increase capacity by 20% in new deal

Ireland’s first commercial vertical farmer grows crops sustainably all year-round

Brian O’Reilly, a former mushroom farmer, and his brother Aidan, who have launched the first commercial hydroponic farm in Ireland

Brian O’Reilly, a former mushroom farmer, and his brother Aidan, who have launched the first commercial hydroponic farm in Ireland

 

Two Irish farmers have signed a deal with food-service provider Compass Group that will help to reduce food miles and see production capacity rise by 20 per cent.

Compass Group 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 indoor farming technology to grow crops sustainably year-round from their rural base in Ballyporeen in 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 per cent 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 per cent, allowing the O’Reillys to expand their vertical farming business with the addition of a second growing tunnel.

Brian O’Reilly said the 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.

“This deal with Compass Ireland is a game-changer for our new vertical business at a critical time in our development,” he said. “It gives us much needed security and allows us to plan ahead and make a success of this new way of growing fresh produce year-round.

“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.”

He added that plans were already under way to begin growing microgreens in the second tunnel before the end of the year and further tunnels will be added in 2022.

Farming partner

Deirdre O’Neill, managing director at Compass Group, said: “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.”

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. Ms Orton works in partnership with Compass Ireland to cultivate sustainable seasonal vegetables.

She also develops environmentally friendly growing methods to increase biodiversity on her farm. She will now be able grow vegetables sustainably year-round.

Compass Group works with 180 Irish food producers and spends €35 million per year on Irish food. Seventy per cent of the food sourced by Compass Ireland for the Irish market is produced here.