Across the pond, urban farms are the next big thing

A vertical farming boom is happening in Ireland. Two Cork City urban farms established themselves amidst the chaos of 2020, casting doubt aside during a year that saw entrepreneurs and small businesses pushed to their limits. Lockdowns in Ireland presented hardships, but they also allowed room for four Cork City locals to consider how to be problem solvers.

Green Towers Ireland paved the way by starting their farm in Nov. 2019 during one of the city’s coldest weeks. Founders Jenny Twomey and Jillian O’Brien started growing in a glasshouse with 12 Towers on display for everyone to see. Their idea was “farm to fork.” Meaning, everything sourced would be better than local - it’d be grown on-site using their Tower Gardens.  

Towmey and O’Brien placed a Tower Garden inside a neighborhood restaurant, which caught the eye of local resident, Brian MacCarthy. What grew next was a partnership that would form Cork Rooftop Farm, a passion project born out of lockdown, with founders Brian McCarthy and Thay Carlos needing something to work on after their own jobs shut down. 

“I was fascinated,” said McCarthy. “We had been looking at hydroponics and aeroponics and were looking at what we could do on our rooftop, and discovered that someone was already doing it within the city, so we reached out. We then tried three Towers over the summer to get a feel for them, as well as the response people would have to that form of growing - and it was really positive.”

“Taking care of the planet is big here <in Ireland>, there are a lot of targets we are trying to hit in terms of being carbon neutral,” said Twomey. “We wanted to start small with our farm, and to test the market. But to think now, only a year later, Cork Rooftop Farm has also started growing is just incredible.”

While they recognize the value in being the first ones in the city to start urban farms, they also understand that they won’t be the last ones. “There is a crowd in Dublin doing container farms. I haven’t seen anyone else in Cork take on vertical farming yet, but we do inspire others to start,” said Twomey. “Cork Rooftop Farm is in the city center and spills right into a market. They are producing food where people live and work and play. People want to support them because they are right there.”

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