Urban Stream Micro-Farm Brings Ultra-Local Greens to South Granville

Urban Stream Micro Farm

(HealthCastle.com) If you peek into the parking lot behind Luke's Corner Bar & Kitchen on Granville Street, you'll see something that looks pretty much like a regular old shipping container. Take a closer look, though, and you'll see that the shipping container has a greenhouse-style roof. Why? Because that shipping container is actually a "micro-farm" – a new style of food production created by Nick Hermes of Urban Stream.

What's a Micro-Farm?

The Urban Stream micro-farm is a 20-foot shipping container converted into a composting facility/greenhouse. The farm takes in food scraps from Luke's and uses a combination of composting techniques to process it down to worm castings (the technical name for worm poop) – which is known to all gardeners as black gold because it offers such a high concentration of valuable nutrition for plants. Then, the compost is used to help grow food, which Nick sells back to the restaurant.

Right now, Nick is focusing on micro-greens. In fact, when I sent my editor Christina over to take some pictures of the micro-farm last week, Nick was just rinsing off his first delivery of radish and arugula green in the Luke's kitchen. He's also starting to work on oyster mushrooms and will eventually even raise tilapia.

It's all part of a system that's designed to eliminate food and water waste. Once the fish are in place, the water from the barrel they live in will be used to water the greens, which will be placed in a series of aquaponic planters made from rain gutters that allow the water to flow from the top level down to the bottom. Water that flows out the bottom, now clean, can go back into the fish barrel.

The micro-farm uses some electricity for light during shorter winter days, but the heat for the unit is drawn from the compost using a bioreactor. When it gets hot in the summer, two panels in the roof open up to create ventilation. Eventually, Nick plans to create a model that is powered completely by the composting process and the sun.

Why Micro-Farming?

As you know if you're a follower of this site, we're big fans of local food – and you can't get more local than this. The micro-farm is about 10 feet away from the kitchen door at Luke's, so the greens could literally be minutes old when they hit your plate.

But the real benefit for businesses is that they no longer have to pay to have their waste taken away, and they don't have to worry about how they'll comply with new city regulations coming into effect in 2015 that require 70% of organic food scraps to be diverted from the landfill. Right now, the unit at Luke's is the only one in operation, but Nick told us he's been getting calls from other restaurants, neighbourhood groups, and even the airport.

Many urban businesses may not have the space to plant a traditional food garden, but just about anyone can give up one parking space.

Tell us: So, what do you think? Would you go out of your way to eat at a restaurant that had a micro-farm out back? Would you be interested in seeing a micro-farm incorporated in your neighbourhood? Let us know in the comments.

Photos Credits: Christina Newberry.

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