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Farming and gardening in Southbank

In Southbank, the densest part of Melbourne, there is an urban farm and a balcony oasis.

The 2023 Estimated Resident Population for Southbank is 26,166, with a population density of 16,404 persons per square km. The land area is 1.6 square kms.1

The former BMW motorcycle showroom on City Road is part of Beaulah’s Southbank site where they propose to build the southern hemisphere’s highest building – a ‘greenscraper’ featuring extensive planting – a subject for another day.

Rather than leaving the showroom vacant until the site is developed, it has become a vertical urban farm growing microgreens, Greenspace.

Red sorrell grown by Greenspace

The modular hyrdroponic system was designed by vertical farming expert Joji Imabayashi. It is easily assembled and easily re-located. Each assemblage of units forms a macrofarm. Greenspace customers may also choose to host a microfarm on their premises. The growing medium is perlite, and the growing plants are fed from a nutrient rich reservoir at the base of each module. The microgreens are grown from seed to sale. The plants grow under LED lights above the plants which are switched off for a few hours each night. Even plants need to rest!

The microfarm

Greenspace is about ‘food metres’ rather than ‘food miles’. Customers are sourced from within a walking catchment of the farm. When the microgreens are ready, they are unloaded from the macrofarm onto a trolley and wheeled to the customer on foot.

Jake and Amy grow the plants from seed and tend the farm. Jake is experienced in hydroponics and Amy has completed training in horticulture.

Greenspace was founded by entrepreneur Peter Fox in 2018 and was pioneered in Sydney. His particular interest lies in opportunities that merge sustainability with urban development. Fox would like to see a future farm incorporated into Beaulah Southbank.

Greenspace has already secured another site on City Road in anticipation of Beulah developing its site.

Less than a block away, above the notorious City Rd x Power St intersection, is a balcony garden oasis. The corner apartment has two balconies.

A magpie lark struts around

H & L are great travellers and curious observers of the world. Since they are often away, the garden is left to look after itself (with a little bit of help from an irrigation system). H observes that the garden should not to be too neat. Her messy corner is alive with insect activity including crickets on a summer night. On their recent return after some time away, after digging over some pots, birds immediately appeared.

How do they know?

Birds are frequent visitors to the garden. Here is a list of those that have perched on their balcony over time:

Little ravens, Spotted doves, House sparrow, Galah, Common blackbird, Sulphur-crested cockatoo, Pied currawong, Common starling, Indian Myna, Rock dove, Red wattlebird, White-plumed honeyeater, Australian magpie, Pied butcherbird, Grey butcherbird, Song thrush, Magpie-lark and wait for it – Domestic chicken (flown from nearby apt block 19!

L is an experienced bird observer, so we can have confidence in that list.

As H says, “build it, and they will come”.

1 .id community demographic resources City of Melbourne community profile

Read more about Greenspace

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