Australian vertical farmer expands with university help

Founded by Francisco Caffarena and Michael Harder in 2016, Sprout Stack is Australia's only commercial vertical farm. The Brookvale-based start-up utilises shipping containers to grow greens for independent grocers using methods more productive than traditional farming, says chief executive Hugh McGilligan.

Instead of soil, Sprout Stack uses the husk byproduct of commercial coconut production to hydroponically grow salad greens such as lettuce, kale, mizuna and pea tendrils. One shipping container can produce 2500 head of lettuce a week, which is a rate about 30 per cent faster than traditional agriculture.

Sprout Stack supplies Harris Farm Markets and independent grocers including Manly Food Co-Op and Harbord Growers. With an aim to double output by the end of summer, the company moved to a larger warehouse in October and increased its container count from three to five.

To assist in its expansion, Sprout Stack has partnered with the University of New South Wales. Both are members of the Future Food Systems Co-operative Research Centre, a partially government-funded body which aims to optimise the productivity of food systems.

"The university is helping us look at ways we can introduce robotics and boost production by four to five times over the next year or so," says McGilligan.

Read more at Good Food (Callan Boys)

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