Australia: Farm pushed through pandemic, now plans expansion
“We are currently putting together a prospectus to attract investors. This will allow us to build more farms, not only here in Australia, but also abroad. Our metrics show that we can build, grow, and operate more efficiently than any greenhouse,” says Tyrone Dickson, Co-founder of April Sun Farms.
The April Sun Farm concept came about in 2018. Darren Nichol and Tyrone Dickson’s vision was to create the most sustainable farm. They saw a gap in the industry and found ways to offer new products.
April Sun Farms is situated in the inner suburbs of Melbourne, in a 700 sq. m. warehouse. The farm has 200m2 of growing bed space and an additional 5sq. m. of R&D bench area.
Room 1 is 67% complete, whereas the intention is to have this ready by the end of this year. The farm irrigation plant has been designed, engineered, and built to be able to run the second room. This will make the installation of Room 2 more cost and time efficient.
A new 1000m2 farm
On top of that, April Sun Farms is also currently in the design process for setting up a double density superblock in the remaining space of Room 1, and potentially for the entirety of Room 2. In this way, the farm would be between 600 sq. m. and 1000 sq. m. If the double density super block proves to be successful, then this would increase the farm size to 1000m2.
Currently, April Sun Farms is growing microgreens for both the catering sector and retail. They make mixed salad for restaurants, and salad for retail. For retail, the company has individual varieties of broccoli and red cabbage. The farm grows and sells around 20kg per square meter a month of microgreen salads and micro herb pots. On top of that, they also grow basil. “This product is very sought-after. We can grow and market around 108 basil units per m2 a month,” adds Tyrone.
“Our goal is to bring food security to people and places that cannot afford or guarantee the reliance or quality. We will achieve this through research and development, engineering new solutions, systems, and components, but also through building and operating these farms to increase food supplies,” says Tyrone.
Bumps in the road
Yet, getting to this point hasn’t really been a walk in the park. “Our startup journey started in 2018,” Tyrone recounts. “We leased our warehouse in July 2019, and spent the next 4 months designing and engineering our new facility, including components that were not available on the market.”
Not even a couple of weeks had passed since the company started the sales, that a global pandemic broke out. Due to their business being deemed a pre-revenue startup, April Sun Farms attempted to operate without any assistance from Federal or State government funding, in the most frequently locked-down city. Because of this, April Sun Farms’ cultivation and sales were quite inconsistent initially, but the team managed to keep operating, fully aware of its potential. Pushing through the hurdles, April Sun Farms came out strong, and plans to expand on their vision are in the works.
Publication date: Wed 23 Mar 2022
Author: Rebekka Boekhout