These Joburg offices now have farms inside them — and workers get to harvest lunch

Business Insider SA
  • 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.

Vertical gardens in SA offices with hardware and irrigation supplied by Vicinity. (Photos: Vicinity)

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.

Edible business gardens set up by Urban Harvest. (Photo: Urban Harvest)

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.

Google South Africa's office has one such small vegetable garden on its rooftop, offering a quiet, environmentally-friendly retreat with various edible plants.

Google South Africa's rooftop garden provides on-site access to fresh herbs and vegetables. (Photos: Timothy Rangongo, Business Insider SA & @MzansiGirl, Twitter)

"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.

Obtaining a favourable green-star rating is also an incentive to install an edible garden, Urban manager Timothy Kachiri tells Business Insider South Africa.

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.

Sage VIP's new building in Pretoria sports a large rooftop vegetable garden. (Photos: Menlyn Maine)

Google South Africa also directs its fresh produce in-house restaurant Gogo's Shebeen.

Google SA's cool canteen, Gogo's shebeen, makes use of veggies harvested from their rooftop garden. (Photos: @Karabo_Mokgoko, Twitter)

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.

The Westin hotel's rooftop garden in Cape Town, installed by Vertical Veg. (Photos: Vertical Veg)

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.

Dishes prepared by the Westin's chefs, using edible plants from the hotel's garden. (Photos: Vertical Veg)

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's large kitchen garden and meals prepared from edible plants harvested from the garden. (Photos: Culinary Table)

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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