Former Sydney chef transforms car park into farm

STORY: This car park in Sydney has become the unexpected home to a farm owned by former chef Noah Verin.

He has around 40 different species of herbs and microgreens growing here side by side under lights and fans for ventilation.

[Noah Verin, Owner / Urban Green Sydney]

"I always knew that when people heard the story, of the fact that there's a farm in a basement in Barangaroo growing food, that that would like strike people, you know, I knew it would leave an impact. And yeah, happy to say that that has been the case."

Verin, who holds an environmental science degree, started his business Urban Green in early 2020.

His aim is for the company to be carbon neutral by 2026, with a four-prong approach including energy use, growing medium, packaging and deliveries.

[Noah Verin, Owner / Urban Green Sydney]

"So when we started the business we used 36 watt lights, now we use 18 watt. So it's already been a 50 per cent increase in efficiency. The medium we use is coconut coir which is basically a bi-product of the coconut industry, so once you get the juice from the coconuts, all the water, the husks are then ground to make a really good plant medium. So it's a totally renewable resource."

It's the packaging and deliveries that Verin is most proud of.

Although most deliveries are done in a van, some deliveries are made on a bike with a specifically built trailer.

In the future, Verin hopes to use ebikes.

At one of Verin's clients, Sydney restaurant Botswana Butchery in Martin Place, head chef Logan Campbell appreciates many aspects of the Urban Green business.

[Logan Campbell, Head chef / Botswana Butchery]

"Well one of the biggest reasons is obviously it's much more local than a farm miles and miles away. But more importantly the product is actually a lot fresher, so in my perspective once you've cut the stems off those herbs they start to degrade, all the natural nutrients and sugars start to degrade. 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."

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

He hopes to open more car park farms in the future, including some to grow products like chilies and strawberries.