Cyprus Mail
Life & Style

Container in Limassol is the future of farming

Remember when you were little, and dreamt of the space age future promised on TV; a bright time in which everything was hip, high-tech, and healthy? In just a few decades, we were told, we’d be making phone calls from our watches (check), travelling in driverless cars (almost check), and eating produce grown in high-tech vertical farms (Hmm.). Well, two out of three isn’t bad. Though, if Herbanleaf Farms have anything to do with it, we’re heading strongly towards three for three…

Located in Parekklisha village, this farm is a one-of-a-kind, growing super fresh, healthy greens with a difference… Everything – all the planting, seeding, growing, tending and harvesting – takes place in an upcycled, 40-foot shipping container. And it’s all thanks to the miracle of hydroponics…

A sustainable indoor hydroponics farming company, Herbanleaf is the brainchild of the Timveos family: dad, mum and daughter all working diligently to provide clean, premium leafy greens and herbs grown inside a controlled environment. “This really is a family affair,” explains Myrianthi, the 32-year-old daughter. “My Mum Maria and I work full-time on the farm, while my dad, Panayiotis, helps out whenever he can. In fact, though we’re all as a family very into healthy eating, this whole venture was originally my Dad’s idea: he’s always been into organic gardening, growing vegetables in the backyard, planting seeds and feeding family and friends.”

Inspired by Panayiotis’ research into alternative methods of farming, this environmentally-conscious family came across the Freight Farms venture in 2016, a company which offers complete hydroponic farming solutions for families and businesses all over the world. “My parents went to the regional Freight Farms outlet in Holland, decided to forge ahead with the idea, and next thing we knew our shipping container and equipment had arrived on the island, along with a couple of trainers to teach us the basics…

“It all arrived in November 2017, and by December of that year we were up and running,” Myrianthi reveals. “Granted, we didn’t originally realise what we were in for,” she laughs, “but now we’ve been at this for a while, we love what we do: it’s a real passion…”

Focusing on providing better quality and healthier leafy greens and herbs using the latest sustainable farming techniques Herbanleaf’s innovative methods include the use of non-GMO seeds, grown without the use of harmful chemicals, pesticides, or fertilisers.

“Because we control the growing conditions so completely, we have an amazing range of products that Cyprus doesn’t usually see,” Myrianthi notes. “Mustard greens such as wasabina, which has a spicy flavour, and adds a wonderfully spicy note to salads and eggs; the electric daisy, an edible flower native to Brazil which has antiseptic, analgesic, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and boasts a delightfully citrus flavour; and both green and purple pak choi! We also grow everything from fresh, crisp lettuce, to four varieties of kale, swiss chard, red-veined sorrel, leaf beet and all sorts of herbs such as dill, wild rocket, and coriander. There are,” she adds, “other hydroponics farms on the island, but they’re using greenhouses rather than a specialised, environmentally controlled farm, and that’s what makes us different…”

Saving more than 90 per cent of the water used in traditional farming, delivering the produce equivalent to that grown on 7,284 square metres of land, and able to grow all year round, the Herbanleaf hydroponics system is a marvel of space-age innovation. The plants are grown vertically, in 256 towers. “It’s very futuristic!” smiles Myrianthi. “It’s almost like a spaceship inside: there’s a constant of purple haze from the red and blue LED lights we use – the optimal wavelengths for photosynthesis. There’s also a lot of agrotech involved: special programming which controls the functioning of the farm, oversees the nutrient, seedling, and main tanks, as well as sensors for everything from pH to water temperature. It’s definitely hard work, but we have a real passion for what we’re doing and it’s good to know we’re helping to promote a healthy, environmentally-friendly island!”

From seeds to harvest, Herbanleaf not only delivers sustainable agriculture, it also offers its clients a transparent overview of where and how their food is grown. “Come summer, much of the produce you buy in supermarkets has been imported,” explains Myrianthi. “Now, that ups your carbon footprint and, at the same time, adds a dimension of uncertainty to the food you’re eating. In fact, even produce grown right here on the island may be covered in harmful chemicals. I think a lot of people are under the impression they’re buying healthy food for their families but, unless you ask the right questions and really do your research, you might be very surprised by what you’re consuming!”

At Herbanleaf, however, customers know exactly what they’re getting and how their food has been grown: there’s complete transparency to the growing process. And, by using non GMO seeds and eschewing the use of harmful chemicals, the venture is able to offer a safer, healthier option to all sectors of the community. “‘Fresher, healthier, and tastier’ is what we do,” Myrianthi adds. “It’s right there in our logo, and we stand by it!”

Not only do the family enjoy these fresher, healthier greens themselves, they also sell to individuals and outlets all over the island. Chefs at various hotels purchase from Herbanleaf on a weekly basis, as does Frutopia in Limassol, and the Alchemy bartending school (apparently the edible flowers are a hit in cocktails!). Then there’s the monthly Peyia Market, at which individuals can get their shot of healthy greens direct from the family, as well as a service which sees the produce delivered all over the island.

“So far,” Myrianthi concludes, “we’ve been very successful. There’s an excellent market out there of health conscious individuals, chefs looking for a premium product, and people who want to know exactly how their food is grown. In fact, if you’d like to see the farm for yourself, we’re always more than happy to show visitors round, give them different flavours to taste and teach them about the wonders of hydroponics. This, I believe, is the future of farming!”

Alix Norman is a freelance writer and editor based in Cyprus. For more information on her work visit www.alixnorman.com

For more information on Herbanleaf Farms, visit https://www.herbanleaffarms.com or the Faceook page ‘HerbanLeaf Farms’

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