Former chef turns to urban farming under Sydney business district

SYDNEY, Nov 4 (Reuters) - A former chef turned farmer has begun to supply Sydney restaurants with sustainable herbs and microgreens grown in a carpark beneath the city's harbourside business district.

Noah Verin set up his Urban Green business in Sydney's Barangaroo district in early 2020 with around 40 different plant species growing side by side. Now, he is riding an industry push to make sustainability a top menu ingredient.

"I always knew that when people heard the story of the fact there's a farm in a basement in Barangaroo growing food... I knew it would leave an impact," Verin, who also holds an environmental science degree, told Reuters.

While vertical farms have been seen as a potential answer to the food crisis, Verin said now the conversation has shifted to how those same farms can also be sustainable.

"There's no point in setting up a farm to help solve these problems if we are not also creating sustainable farms," he said, ahead of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP27, to be held from Nov. 6 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

Verin is pushing to make his business fully sustainable and aims to make Urban Green carbon neutral by 2026.

So far, he has halved his power usage from LED lights, while the fibre he grows plants in - coconut coir - is a byproduct from the coconut industry. He is shifting towards e-bike delivery and fully biodegradable plant pots so the business can be plastic free.

"Noah's product comes in still alive, still in its pot and also he doesn't use a lot of plastics or any throw away products like that so it's all very sustainable which I like," head chef Logan Campbell of Sydney restaurant Botswana Butchery told Reuters.

Verin aims to one day open car park farms for products such as chilis and strawberries and more car park micro green and herb farms.

"We want to derive a minimum 50 percent of our deliveries within a one kilometre radius of the farm because that's a major advantage... we are surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of food service restaurants," he said.

Reporting by Stefica Nicol Bikes Editing by Melanie Burton and Tomasz Janowski

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