The future of farming is here. High-tech indoor vertical farms are sprouting up beneath our city buildings and taking over unused CBD real estate. Just a chip’s throw from Crown Casino in Melbourne’s Southbank, a former BMW showroom has been transformed into a productive farm.

Apart from the faint trickle of water and the whoosh of traffic outside, the farm is almost silent and spotlessly clean. Tall modular racks covering just 50 square meters hold pots of microgreens that are hydroponically grown under LED strips.

The plants, which range from the aromatic Japanese herb shiso to vermillion-colored sorrel to dainty, days-old parsley, are destined for some of Melbourne’s finest restaurants, all near the building. When the plants are ready to eat, the pots are loaded onto a trolley and pushed along the streets to their destination. There they are put into compact and attractive microfarms in businesses’ foyers and hotel restaurants.

The operation is run by Sydney-based vertical farming business It was founded in 2018 by serial entrepreneur Peter Fox, who co-founded travel site Viator (he sold the business in 1999, long before its 2014 $US200 million acquisition by TripAdvisor). Before that, he ran a TV production company that created Better Homes and Gardens for the Seven Network.