Waikato Innovation Park’s 17-hectare Ruakura business campus in Hamilton is now home to Aotearoa’s first large-scale vertical farm.
Operated by New Zealand horticulture company Greengrower, the 5,900m² vertical farm production facility grows leafy green plants in stacked layers from seed right through to harvest.
About the project
Fully automated, the Greengrower facility uses cutting-edge technology to create ideal growing conditions, tailoring the delivery of light and food to optimise taste and nutrition. It uses 95 per cent less water than conventional horticulture and significantly less electricity than conventional greenhouses.
Early contractor involvement with both Waikato Innovation Park and Greengrower on this design and build project enabled Fosters to guide the design in terms of buildability and feasible timeframes.
Essentially a warehouse with a mezzanine floor for growing and harvesting, specialist features included extensive in-ground services for production (water, wastewater, and storm water) and controlled humidity rooms. The extensive plant installation took place throughout the construction process.
Built during Covid-19, there were delays with materials, particularly structural elements that came from overseas, and onsite operations were restricted. Despite this, the project was delivered on time and on budget.
Fosters also managed the project fitout for Greengrower.
Greengrower CEO Tom Schuyt pitched the farm’s concept in 2020 to the Waikato Innovation Park team, who didn’t hesitate in engaging Fosters to build the custom designed facility.
“We’d worked with Fosters before on a three-storey commercial building on our campus, and they did a great job for us,” the park’s infrastructure manager Simon Travaglia said.
“They’re one of the best contractors we’ve worked with, so they were our first pick.”
Hamilton engineering and architecture firm Stiles and Hooker designed the warehouse, which incorporates mezzanine growing and robotic harvesting areas, controlled humidity rooms and extensive in-ground water services.
“Fosters fed back into the design in terms of how to make things work better,” Simon said.
“We had a few challenges in the way – a few changes in design to incorporate – and they managed that process very well. They kept us informed, tried to minimise the impact of any variations, and gave us options.”
He applauded Fosters’ open and honest communication and “exceptional” project management, which resulted in an “extremely low impact” on the busy campus.
“They understood what we wanted from the project,” he said.
The build was delivered on time and on budget.
Simon said he would “absolutely” work with Fosters again. “That’s a no brainer, they went above and beyond for us. They really looked after us on this project. And we’re very grateful to them for that,” he said.
“If I could sum Fosters up with one word it would be integrity.”
“Fosters are one of the best contractors we’ve worked with, so they were our first pick.”
Simon Travaglia, Waikato Innovation Park Infrastructure Manager