In a Victorian first, a large section of a 2000m2 rooftop car park in the heart of the Melbourne CBD has been transformed into a thriving urban farm, with works continuing over the next 12 months on this new rooftop city oasis, which when complete, will feature sustainable and contemporary hospitality sites, environmental education as well as business conference facilities and event spaces.
Aptly named Melbourne Skyfarm, the sustainable city oasis is located in the emerging Seafarer’s precinct and directly overlooks the Yarra River to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. When fully completed in the second half of 2022, Melbourne Skyfarm will be opened to the general public and will be a mecca for visitors as they tour the working farm, visit and sample from the rooftop orchard and herb gardens, dine at the sustainable cafe, enjoy a drink or coffee overlooking Melbourne’s skyline and Yarra river, hire one of the three unique event spaces on offer, purchase plants from the rooftop nursery, as well as attend classes in the environmental education area.
The first chapter of Melbourne Skyfarm will celebrate and mark the completion of the urban greening and urban farming component of the farm, which has occurred with the support of a $300,000 grant by the City of Melbourne Urban Forest Fund, which represents about 10 per cent of the budget of the overall project.
Melbourne Skyfarm has been initiated by a group of leading Melbourne-based sustainability companies including urban farming company Biofilta, The Sustainable Landscape Company and nature regeneration and protection group Odonata, with the generous support of Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) and City of Melbourne Urban Forest Fund.
The site is expected to host thousands of school students annually, visiting to participate in immersive education experiences on sustainable living, regenerative practices and protection and restoration of nature. Thousands more visitors are expected to undertake farm tours, enjoy workshops, visit the café or attend events. The site will demonstrate how to grow fresh produce and incorporate nature into city spaces, whilst using greenery to help cool the urban environment.
With the capacity to produce over 5 tonnes of fresh produce per annum, much of which will be donated to food charity OzHarvest, Melbourne Skyfarm is a case study of Melbourne’s contribution to a global push to create food security and climate adapted cities. Skyfarm showcases how we can overlay our city spaces with living systems that improve the ability of our cities to cool our microclimates in the face of increasing heatwaves, absorb rainwater runoff, improve downstream water quality, host beneficial biodiversity, generate fresh produce, reduce food miles to food meters, and improve nutrition, social connection and liveability.
- Advanced urban rooftop farm, rooftop orchard and nursery
After seven years of R&D, and around $1 million in investment, Biofilta have perfected Foodcube, an advanced self-watering wicking bed farming module that is the horticultural backbone of the food production and greenery on Skyfarm. Foodcube urban farms are a breakthrough urban farming system that can be rapidly installed on to any underutilised city surface – rooftops, courtyards, carparks, backyards and schools, able to be installed in days and generating food within weeks for communities who need access to fresh produce. Made from 80 per cent recycled food grade plastic in South East Melbourne, Foodcubes are a positive circular economy and local manufacturing story for Melbourne and a positive story for food security generally. Skyfarm can grow more than five tonnes of fresh produce per annum, with a large proportion of produce being donated to Melbourne food charity OzHarvest as well as being used in the menu of the Melbourne Skyfarm Cafe. The farm will also incorporate a rooftop orchard, composting, a rooftop nursery and a range of urban biodiversity and habitat initiatives to attract beneficial insects to the rooftop.
- Environmental education space
Melbourne SkyFarm will feature an education and classroom space, providing an exciting platform for educating primary, secondary and tertiary students, community groups, businesses and future leaders about the rapidly growing field of sustainable solutions to environmental challenges. Melbourne Skyfarm will educate students about a range of best practice initiatives including renewable energy, urban greening, zero waste living, urban farming, rainwater harvesting, closed loop cities and urban biodiversity.
- Café and event space
Melbourne Skyfarm will feature a 90-seat licensed café and a unique range of public and hireable spaces for events, exhibitions, meetings, conferences and celebrations. The hospitality elements of Melbourne Skyfarm will champion best practice sustainable farming, low-waste hospitality techniques and native ingredient use as well as sustainable produce from the Greater Melbourne and Victorian regions.
MCEC Chief Executive, Peter King said"skyfarm is a wonderful opportunity for MCEC to lead the way for businesses to take charge of their responsibility to the environment."
“We are thrilled to be involved in such an innovative project which will benefit not only MCEC’s customers, visitors and employees but the Melbourne CBD as a whole, especially the South Wharf and Docklands precincts.”
“We acknowledge the obligation we have to reduce our demand on the planet’s finite resources and through the opening of Skyfarm, we are sending a message that we can and will do more for our community and the environment.”
“Skyfarm has seen the transformation of a concrete carpark into a venue Melbournians can gather to learn, socialise and enjoy a completely different space to what they are used to, it’s a place to inspire awareness of the environment we are surrounded by.”
Mayor of Melbourne, Councillor Sally Capp said"we are incredibly excited that Skyfarm has come together to create a green oasis in the heart of our city. Through our Urban Forest Fund we committed $300,000 to support the delivery of the urban farm component of Skyfarm and we’re extremely proud of what Brendan Condon, and his team, has delivered."
"It has never been more important for us to invest in sustainable greening projects which engage our community, show innovative thinking and showcase how we can all work together to create an environmentally friendly and greener future for our city. Projects like this will help to bring back the buzz by attracting more visitors into the city to enjoy this amazing rooftop urban farm."
Melbourne Skyfarm Director, Brendan Condon said "Melbourne Skyfarm aims to be a wonderful platform to showcase what is possible for sustainable cities embracing the future, showcasing Australian designed and manufactured urban farming systems to demonstrate the huge food growing potential that exists in cities if we harness good design, urban farming innovation and circular economy principles."
"Skyfarm aims to transform a bare concrete carpark into a 2000 square meter inner city rooftop oasis and thriving urban farm, where Melburnians can enjoy a meal, explore a beautiful landscape, have an engaging educational experience and find out about emerging solutions to environmental challenges."
"We look forward to this site adding to the attraction of our vibrant city and unleashing the inventiveness and creativity of the city’s students, sustainable designers and innovators. We sincerely thank the City of Melbourne Urban Forest Fund for an initial $300,000 grant, and Melbourne Convention Exhibition Centre for their support and generosity, and the team from Odonata, Biofilta and The Sustainable Landscape Company for helping develop the project."