Through a partnership between Mirvac and Melbourne start-up Farmwall, “Cultivate” converts under-used spaces, including car parks, basements and vacant retail or office spaces, into urban farms.
Kudos to Mirvac for partnering with Melbourne start-up, Farmwall, to turn unproductive spaces in Sydney’s city into food-producing ecosystems.
Now thanks to the Cultivate pilot program, people can take a break from their office desks and de-stress in a 45-minute session that teaches them how to grow their own fresh, organic produce and helps them learn more about the nutritional value of microgreens. Cultivate also offers local businesses the opportunity to purchase fresh produce grown on-site, with no food miles or packaging. Using a combination of aquaponics and hydroponics, a variety of microgreens and leafy greens are available to local chefs who can harvest them in the morning to be served fresh that day. It takes just seven minutes for the food to get from “parking lot to plate”. Cultivate is supplying some produce to nearby cafés, including Avenue on George and the Song Café. Cultivate is bringing real food and a real sense of well-being to city office workers.
Mirvac’s innovation unit, Hatch initiated Cultivate
People across the Mirvac business are part of Hatch, which has been set up to build innovation capability. Hatch has been working on missions to improve Mirvac’s experience for customers. How does it go about this? First, Hatch defines a mission. Cultivate arose from the mission to make better use of Mirvac’s assets. Hatch’s team then speaks to customers to explore “pain points” and look for problems. Next, Hatch crafts a challenge and hosts an “ideation session”. It brings non-Mirvac people into these sessions, such as students, business owners and customers, to foster new ideas. Diversity encourages creative output. Hatch then experiments with a pilot program, implementing later. It tests the idea cheaply with customers. Cultivate is one of those experiments.
The results of Cultivate so far have been fascinating
Hatch expected 20 to 30 people to express interest in being urban farmers – but more than 200 people from Mirvac, EY and AGL registered to participate. Cultivate ticks a lot of boxes: health and wellbeing, collaboration, sustainability and new supply chains are just a few. Urban farmers have been delighted to discover their own oyster mushroom in the soup of the day served in the staff café. Others are scheduling team meetings down in the space. Bringing the natural environment into the workplace is a proven method to boost creative thinking. The garden also enhances the building asset. The seven minutes it takes to get the food from farm to plate is impressive, and with zero chemicals, pesticides or packaging waste, it’s easy to see why Cultivate is a sustainable solution. Cultivate has also been a great collaboration tool and “conversation starter”. The project has the broader advantage of testing out different ways of using car parks as autonomous vehicle technology develops.
Mirvac’s Hatch is currently working with lots of different technologies – robotics, AI and drone technology for example – with a robust pipeline of strategic projects underway that link to an innovation mission and solve problems for customers. Stay tuned.