Visitors are permitted at Austin Health sites with some restrictions. Find out more about our visitor restrictions.
25 January 2024
Our herb production journey began last year when a Food Production Unit team member noticed staff cultivating strawberries in Ward 17 at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital.
Eager to enhance our commitment to sustainability, the Food Production Unit sought and secured funding early last year to install two Foodcubes to grow fresh herbs for food production. These herbs would supplement fresh herb purchases and reduce our usual purchase costs. Steven Wells, our Gardens and Grounds Coordinator, was brought on board to bring this project to life.
Sam Ponniah, our General Manager of Food Services, says, “Fresh herbs grown on-site from these Foodcubes will enhance our patients’ mealtime experience with quality in taste and flavour. This sustainable model can be scaled up to meet the needs of our seasonal menu changes.”
Foodcube was chosen for this project as it is locally manufactured in Melbourne and aligns with the concept of reducing food miles. It is constructed from food-grade polypropylene plastic, using 80% recycled content sourced from the confectionery industry, and it is recyclable at the end of its life cycle.
Steven sourced and assembled the Foodcubes, installed the potting mix and planted rosemary, thyme, and spring onions. Excitingly, within only a few weeks of installation, we had saved a day's worth of orders using these homegrown herbs instead. The success of the two trial planters prompted the desire for additional planters and increased herb production.
Eight new Foodcubes were installed in December and chives, basil, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, mint, rosemary, thyme and coriander were planted. These were selected by the food production team because these are the herbs that they purchase and use regularly for meal production.
"It has been great collaborating with our food production team on this project to install these planters. It supports them growing fresh herbs that have ‘food metres’ rather than ‘food miles’ for their use in our kitchens”, says Steven. “I'm excited to see the abundant herb production over the coming months and years. This is a really good outcome for our patients".
While we may not be covering miles with this initiative, we're certainly making significant strides toward a greener future. Sam adds, “This initiative aligns with our guiding principle ‘Listen to what our patients and community say’ and showcases our commitment to sustainability as a large production facility.”