New ways to grow and prosper – Connacht Tribune – Galway City Tribune:

Lifestyle – Based in Ballybrit, Galmere produces 13 million servings of food a year, many for well-known Irish retailers and brands. There are also four house brands with products ranging from coleslaw to dahl to lentils. Now Galmere grows basil in Galway all year round for its fresh pesto, as the company’s John Casey tells JUDY MURPHY.

It would take a brave person to suggest that growing basil all year round in Ireland might be a good idea.

Basil, the herb that is normally used in pesto, is primarily associated with Italy, where the warmth and sunlight it loves exist in abundance. Even in summer, the Irish weather can be a challenge for her.

But, under certain conditions, it is possible to grow basil all year round in this country. Galway-based company Galmere Foods started doing this last year in a ‘vertical digital farm’ at its Ballybrit headquarters, where it is now the key ingredient in Pestle + Mortar, their award-winning brand of pesto costs.

The decision to grow basil here follows extensive research by Galmere, who already make soups, dishes and sauces for well-known Irish brands, retailers and private labels as well as their four own brands.

It’s all done from a 33,000 square foot building in Ballybrit, where 70 people are employed – and a new recruitment drive is underway.

Basil is grown hydroponically under UV lighting, says John Casey who, with business partner Peter Strange, runs Galmere. Hydroponics allows crops to grow directly in nutrient rich water and at Galmere the temperature is also regulated for this sensitive herb.

“We had studied developments in digital agriculture and temperature control,” he explains. “It’s an evolution of growing under glass where, in addition to providing heat and nutrients, you provide UV light. Light in the right color is the key to growing basil. You can adjust it to optimize it for growing plants.

Low-voltage lighting is used, which makes it energy efficient, he adds. And since basil is grown vertically, on stacked trays, “you can grow a lot in a small space”. All this happens in a sealed container with a high level of hygiene, eliminating the need for pesticides.

The result is a fresher and more environmentally friendly basil than the imported herb.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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