Farm.One, a Manhattan vertical farm, launched its latest mini-farm at the newly opened Whole Foods Market Manhattan West. Farm.One custom designed the farm for the Manhattan West store and maintains the on-site mini-farm to supply the in-store prepared food and beverages with freshly grown and harvested Blue Spice Basil. The basil is used as an ingredient for a variety of delicious menu items, including freshly made pizza and the Whole Foods Mule, a specialty cocktail.
With a mission to surprise and delight with fresh, local, specialty ingredients grown in city centers, Farm.One’s mini-farm represents a major shift in urban food production and supply chains. With mini-farms, businesses have continual access to the highest quality, most flavorful and consistent professional-grade ingredients. Further, the distance between production and consumption is now mere footsteps, eliminating any carbon emissions associated with delivery of the produce.
“Every kitchen knows the difference that freshness and quality of ingredients can make to the food they serve,” said Rob Laing, founder and CEO of Farm.One. “When we started in 2016, it wasn’t financially feasible to build and operate small farms profitably in cities like New York. We’ve now been able to decrease the cost of building a farm and have developed a model where a larger farm, like our TriBeCa flagship, can support small farms for grocery stores, restaurants and the hospitality industry all over the greater New York City area. This marks a real inflection point for what people can expect in their meals and the economy of urban food production.”
Farm.One’s mini-farm at Whole Foods Market Manhattan West takes up just thirty two square feet and features a hundred and fifty plant sites on three growing levels. The hydroponic system was designed and built by Farm.One’s engineering and technology team to optimize crop productivity, minimize intrusiveness to the store experience and require minimal maintenance. The facade of the mini-farm was customized to match the familiar brushed stainless steel aesthetic of Whole Foods Market. The mini-farm is capable of supplying at least 8 pounds of basil every month, including harvesting the fragrant basil flowers for use in the Whole Foods Mule.
“The first thing our customers notice when they enter the prepared food section of the store is the incredible fragrance of the basil,” said Chris Manca, local forager, Whole Foods Market Northeast Region. “As soon as our chefs, and even our mixologist, had access to the basil they were inspired to create menu items that highlight the freshness and flavor of Farm.One’s blue spice basil. This collaboration with Farm.One has really impacted the way we think about fresh ingredients in our kitchens and we can’t wait for customers to come by and experience it.”
Farm.One’s distributed agriculture model
Farm.One has taken a distributed approach to scaling indoor farming in cities, an alternative to the large, expensive warehouse farming models. By establishing a Farm.One flagship as a hub in a city, the company is able to centralize farming and business operations, engineering, training and support, to build and maintain on-site ‘spoke’ farms throughout a city for its customers. This results in lower investment requirements, a faster path to profitability and the flexibility to grow a diverse range of crops that meet a variety of customer needs.
“Our hub-and-spoke model of distributed agriculture proves that indoor agriculture doesn’t need tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to be viable and achieve scale,” added Laing. “Also, by putting farms in visible places around the city we’re ensuring openness and transparency never before achieved in the industry. Whether you visit a Farm.One flagship for a tour or class, when it’s safe to do so, or experience a mini-farm in the middle of a grocery store, you’ll see and learn about how your food is grown.”
The company has plans to build flagships and mini-farms in major cities around the United States and globally over the next twenty four months.
Farm costs are further reduced through its relationship with leading LED lighting company Fluence by OSRAM. The cost of lighting and electricity remains one of the highest cost centers for building and operating indoor farms. By collaborating with Fluence, Farm.One is leveraging innovative LED technology to ensure its growing environments are optimized by crop type and for operational efficiency.
“In a vertical farming environment, efficiency isn’t a perk, it is paramount to the farm’s success,” said David Cohen, CEO of Fluence. “Farm.One is tapping into the world’s most advanced cultivation technology to deliver beautiful, delectable plants in the heart of one of the busiest metropolitan areas in the world. Their ability to localize high-quality crop production illustrates how exploring the interaction between light and life will yield a healthier and more sustainable world.”
The mini-farm at Whole Foods Market Manhattan West adds to several mini-farms Farm.One has built out of its flagship farm in TriBeCa, including at OCTOBER, a restaurant in Nolita which features a 100% plant-based menu, Eataly NYC Flatiron and at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE), the site of Farm.One’s original prototype farm. Farm.One also maintains a farm at Project Farmhouse at Union Square.
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