Image: Brian McCarthy with Rasmus Thuesen of FarmDroid and Pat Kenny of IAM.

I am the Managing Director of Cork Rooftop Farm and Central Floral Supplies. Cork Rooftop Farm is an urban farm split across three sites. We grow and direct sell our own fresh produce as well as locally grown and organic fruit and vegetables. The company employs 12 people full-time, and we have two retail outlets in Cork city, soon to be three.

It has been a whirlwind four years since I founded Cork Rooftop Farm, and my Nuffield journey has been an incredibly important element. I have come from starting out with a rooftop of 6,000 square feet in 2020 to taking out a 15-year lease just this January on 60 acres. The ambition and drive of fellow-Nuffield Scholars have certainly rubbed off on me while completing my study programme. To learn from and see people operating on scales beyond my comprehension at the time, gave me great confidence to pursue the path that our business is now travelling.

A prime example of that is the delivery of a FarmDroid to our farm in Glenbrook just this week. It is an autonomous solar powered robotic weeder and seeder. On some farms in the UK, a single machine is managing areas of up to 120 hectares. This robot will allow us to scale production sustainably and will be a key investment in the future of our farm business. I first came across the FarmDroid while on my GFP in Canada in 2022 and it struck me as being an amazing solution to the labour issues which are being faced by the horticulture industry.

The goal of Cork Rooftop Farm is to grow nutritionally dense food in a sustainable manner as close to the end market as possible, and this principle guides every decision I make. The organic sector has seen huge growth in Ireland in recent years and the demand we are experiencing from customers shows that there is a healthy market out there for these products. This has been an incredibly challenging year for farming in terms of weather conditions and climate change. How we will grow food in the future is also shaping how I am setting up our new farm now to cope with the challenges that lie ahead in terms of water, labour, energy, nature and soil health.

Image: FarmDroid

It’s an extremely exciting time to see the farm business grow but that is not without its stresses. I like to think I cope well with pressure, which has stood me in good stead through running my wholesale flower business during the economic crash in the late noughties, as well navigating the difficulties through the growth of Cork Rooftop Farm. I It is important, as a community and network of farmers, that Nuffield Scholars reach out to each other and take the time to help one another. More generally, it is also important to help one’s neighbours and just ask are they getting on okay. I’m extremely thankful for the friends I have made through Nuffield these past few years and the inspiration and support they’ve given me is something I can only try to repay.

Brian McCarthy is a 2021 Nuffield Scholar. Read more about his research topic “Regenerative Agriculture Practices in an Urban Environment Which Reconnects People With The Source Of Their Food”. Click here

Brian posts regularly on instagram all about Cork Rooftop Farm – you can follow his account here