As food shortages continue to wreak havoc on Australia’s hospitality industry, one restaurant owner has decided to take matters into his own hands – literally.
Ian Chan, who owns and operates the Oryza Malaysian hotspot in Hobart, assembles large-scale greenhouses to grow the fruits, vegetables and herbs that feature so prominently on his funky Asian fusion menu.
“There are a lot of hard-to-find things right now. We had trouble getting cucumbers, lemongrass and mesclun, which is like the mixed lettuce you used to see in supermarkets,” he explains.
“We haven’t been immune to lettuce shortages either. Like KFC, we replaced the lettuce with cabbage or sauerkraut.
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The food shortages are a combination of several factors: climate change, natural disasters including the February floods, pests, pandemic worker shortages, a shortage of fertilizers, as well as the Russian invasion of Ukraine causing global shocks in crude oil, canola and sunflower. oil exports.
As a result, the cost of fresh produce like lettuce and tomatoes has more than doubled in recent months, with some supermarkets charging as much as $12 for a head of iceberg.
If you can’t beat them, join them, the Australians replied. Online marketplace eBay reports that its sales of lettuce seeds increased by 209%, while soil and beds increased by 16%.
But becoming a green thumb was no simple undertaking, Chan admits, and a lot of planning and design went into building Oryza’s greenhouses.
“There are a lot of things involved. We are working with various government agencies, builders and landscapers to update everything and make sure everything is the most efficient for us,” he said. SmartCompany.
In addition to reducing its reliance on the beleaguered supply chain, Chain says it also made sense from an environmental standpoint.
Fewer products imported from outside means fewer emissions caused by transportation.
“And we’re taking it a step further by running these greenhouses completely off-grid,” he continued.
“We’re looking to have solar and hydro to power everything; potentially bitcoin miners to generate heat for greenhouses; and we have 100 bamboo trees planted to reduce carbon emissions.
In the meantime, he says, his customers have been receptive to the substitutions needed to deliver Oryza’s colorful menu offerings – a welcome relief that has avoided the cost of constant menu reprinting.
“Where we can’t get cucumbers, we substitute pickled carrots and radishes; where we can’t put lettuce or mesclun, we substitute cabbage,” he said.
“It’s not always an identical exchange, but these new flavors give our dishes another dimension.
“Our customers seem to like it, though!”
One ingredient that’s hard to substitute is lemongrass, Chan admits.
“It’s such an essential part of Malaysian cuisine, so it’s definitely the hardest thing to lose,” he said.
“It will be an important product for us to develop in the future.”
It’s still in its infancy, but Chan says the personal growth approach means his business can be more independent and more resilient to market conditions in the future, and also provides a source income for the calmer months.
“While we hope the lockdowns and restrictions are behind us, the pandemic has taught us the importance of not having all your eggs in one basket from an income perspective,” he said.
“We really think more restaurants will start to consider growing their own produce for the same reasons.”