Hydroponic Indoor Food Production System launched at Westpark

Hydroponic Indoor Food Production System launched at Westpark
By Westpark Shannon Limited on  October 23, 2018

Hydroponic Indoor Food Production System launched at Westpark

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Attractive landscaping has been a key feature of the impressive Westpark Business Campus in Shannon since it was established over a decade ago. While the rolling 40-acre grounds feature a wide variety of trees, shrubs and flowers, they are also home to a fruit trees, salad, herb and vegetable gardens, all supplying the in-house restaurant SAGE with high-quality fresh produce.

However, visionary CEO, Brian O’Connell has taken his ambition for a sustainable year-round supply of campus-grown food a step further with the introduction of a Hydroponics growing system into the heart of the campus – located in the large atrium that forms the Westpark Reception area. 

Our experiment in urban farming is taking place right under our own roof here at Westpark in plain view of all who enter the building. We have purchased the equipment and have commenced planting. The dining services team at SAGE, together with our facilities management team are overseeing the initiative,” said Brian O’Connell.

He added, “We will use hydroponic ‘growing towers’ to produce micro-leaves, herbs, but also leaf based vegetables such as super-food kale, on a year-round basis. By growing food onsite whether outdoors, or indoors through our new hydroponic initiative, the Westpark team has created a unique opportunity to improve customer satisfaction and experience while dining at SAGE restaurant. We can guarantee with confidence that this freshest of fresh produce served on-site is of the highest quality.  Another important bonus of onsite food production is that it helps decrease the ecological footprint of Westpark Business Campus.”

Hydroponics comes from the Greek words “Hydro” meaning Water and “Ponos” meaning labour, and as suggested it is a system that gets water to do the work.  The system depends on the continuous re-circulation of water, while also supplying the plant roots with nutrients.  No soil is used, instead the root system is supported using a growing medium such as Rockwool, Clay pellets, vermiculite or a product that Westpark uses, called “Root It”.

“Hydroponic systems of which there are many, deliver liquid nutrients directly to the roots saving the plants energy and time required to grow. The system that we have decided to use in Westpark, called the Tower Garden which can produce 20 plants at any one time,” said Brian O’Connell.

Westpark produces our own plants from seeds. “We use a growing medium called “Root It” made from a mixture of Peat and Bark bonded together using plant derived biodegradable polymers. They have many advantages. They are environmentally friendly, offer superior absorption of nutrients, are easy to use and handle and they contain micronutrients to aid germination.

These “Root It” plugs are placed in our own Vitopad Heated Propagator, are carefully seeded and grown on for approximately three weeks until a healthy seedling emerges. When the time is right these seedlings are then transplanted to the Tower Garden.

He pointed out the many advantages of hydroponic food production. “Yields are much greater, up to 25 per cent, growth is much faster at around 30 percent, less water is used because it is recycled, some estimates put it as high as 90 percent less water than conventional farming. Less space is required due to vertical growing, the produce doesn’t suffer from soil borne pest, and is grown without using any chemical pesticides or herbicides. But, perhaps best of all, it’s far less labour intensive.”

Westpark’s efforts to produce food, both outdoors and indoors on its campus, reflect a world-wide demand for an increase in efficient and sustainable food production in towns and cities around the world. Westpark Business Campus is proud to be at the cutting edge of this trend.

Brian O’Connell pointed out that while this new initiative builds on Westpark’s already well-established credentials for food production on-site, the 40-acre campus also provides the best recreational facilities and amenities for staff on any campus in the region. The central green area, designed by award-winning landscapers, Cunnane Stratton Reynolds, and known as Central Park, includes walkways through the planted areas of the park and there is an outer perimeter path also for recreational walking.

“Central Park was designed as a pioneering solution for a business campus. We always keep an eye on the future at Westpark. Our clients are global leaders, they expect the best for their staff and we deliver.  The gardens are planted with shrubs and flowers to offer year-round colour.  With seated areas and walkways this amenity offers staff the opportunity to clear their heads and re-charge during their lunchtime break. It is part of our commitment to wellness in the workplace, as is our new hydroponics in-door food production system.