The only way is up for one of Northern Ireland’s newest vertical farmers after winning an innovation award. What started as a home hobby for Belfast man Mark Sutherland two years ago has mushroomed into a profitable farm, specialising in nutritious microgreens.
His sustainable business Green Shed Organic is set to grow even further after he picked up a £5,000 grant with an Innovate UK young innovator award. Mark was one of 62 winners aged 18 to 30 who submitted ideas to change the world. As well as a cash injection for his business, the 30-year-old, who was the only winner from Northern Ireland, had one-on-one coaching.
Mark started out growing microgreens in a shed in his garden, but he’s in the process of moving to new premises. He produces year-round yields of nutritious microgreens that he sells to restaurants and a number of households. Now that he’s moving to a new location, he hopes to expand his businesses and make his produce more affordable.
Mark said: “I wanted to grow vegetables in my garden, but it was September and the wrong time of the year. “That’s when I discovered vertical farming, which is a solution to climatic changes in weather as the plants are grown indoors. “Because they are grown vertically, you don’t need a lot of space, so I built myself a shed in the garden, bought my first LED light and started to grow microgreens at home in 2018. My aim is to grow quality foods while reducing the impact on the environment, but I want to also make them accessible to everyone, so I have ideas for a food range.”
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