These Joburg offices now have farms inside them — and workers get to harvest lunch
- Office farms are gaining traction in SA, with more businesses signing up for veggie gardens.
- One service provider of commercial gardens has installed over 250 business gardens.
- These edible gardens are not only aesthetically pleasing but are saving some establishments money, and reducing employees' stress by exposing them to nature.
Some South African office workers are picking their own herbs and vegetables for lunch, without ever leaving the office.
An organic salad can be quickly put together from lettuce, garlic, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and bell peppers for instance, and topped with lemon juice — all picked from 'office farms' as the installations are colloquially known.
Edible business gardens are also taking over office rooftops, balconies and walls.
Urban Harvest, a company that sets up and maintains edible gardens, says it has already created 250 such gardens, and has many more potential customers thinking about urban farms.
Vicinity, a company that manufactures the structures for such gardens, confirms the trend.
Most of their installations are corporate-oriented. Vicinity just signed on one of the Radisson's Cape Town hotels to install a rooftop garden with edible plants.
"A business is seen as more cutting edge and credible if it includes green practices or characteristics, such as offsetting its carbon footprint, in its work," says MD of Urban Harvest, Ben Getz.
Payroll company Sage's building in the new Menlyn Maine development – which promises "to become Africa's first green city" – sports a 4-star green-star rating and features a functioning vegetable garden on the roof that provides the canteen with fresh herbs and veggies.
Google South Africa also directs its fresh produce in-house restaurant Gogo's Shebeen.
According to a 2015 Human Spaces report, people who work in environments with natural elements report a 15% higher level of well-being, a 6% higher level of productivity, and a 15% higher level of creativity than those who work in environments devoid of nature.
Hotels and restaurants are also increasingly producing right on site.
A vegetable garden allows The Westin's chefs in Cape Town access to fresh, organically-grown herbs and vegetables for use in dishes promoted as having a minimal carbon footprint.
Manager of The Culinary Table restaurant in Johannesburg, Warren Tshuma, says its garden is tied to a philosophy of "honest garden-to-table cuisine, made from scratch."
The Culinary Table also saves money by sourcing ingredients from its own garden, according to Tshuma.
It takes about three days on average to install a big business garden or one for a small office space. Vertical gardens take about a day and half to erect, says Kachiri.
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