“In the States, the food system is so inefficient both in the way it’s produced, at a massive scale and in terms of quality,” says Natalie Radu. "The problem is that consumers are left in the dark. They don’t know what pesticide is used on the food they’re eating. GM foods are not labeled. Let aside the waste this industry has.” Natalie says that many don’t have access to healthy food. When walking around in the Bronx for instance, on the lookout for a grocery store, it’s so much easier to buy a pack of soda for half the price of fresh produce.
‘Localized franchised farming’
“McDonald's is known for real estate. If only we could do a Wholefoods / McDonalds franchise where customers could walk in and snip off lettuce, directly available to consumers. I’m opting for localized franchised farming. I have been trying to figure out a location in terms of real estate, but, from the perspective of a small business, New Jersey and New York prices are very high. I would have to start out in a place that’s cheaper on average. However, I would definitely apply for grants to fund the initial infrastructure for the farms."
Natalie Radu in action on her channel
Natalie has her passion for writing and her engineering study to her advantage when starting a farm. “I think because of this intersection I will be able to work with the science and also have the ability to convey that science. I can make the lettuce we’ll be growing feel personal for someone that’s in their own house, miles away or even across the world. That’s the biggest thing, you have to get people excited about vertical farming, at least as excited as you are. However, when it comes down to engineering I’m going to need some help.”
“My family immigrated from Moldova to the US around the collapse of the Soviet Union,” says Natalie. “My grandparents used to grow several fruits in the backyards and my affection for farming started right about there, it’s in my blood.” Natalie, an 18-year-old engineering student has been determined to run her own farm in the future. It all started with finding a proper research topic, which turned into her biggest passion nowadays.
As Natalie’s based in New Jersey, she is surrounded by several vertical farms. She wanted to pass by some farms near her to visit and stumbled upon Good Feeling Farms. Eventually, Natalie was able to do an internship at Good Feeling Farms to get a better understanding of every aspect of a vertical farm, from seeding to growing to harvesting. Good Feeling Farms is a New Jersey-based wholesale micro greenery that specializes in microgreens and hydro lettuce. The farm is run by a team of three, taking care of the cultivation and harvesting process.
Inside Good Feeling Farms' growing facility
Ever since her internship, Natalie is determined to run her own farm in the future. She currently runs a YouTube channel, where she experiments with indoor hydroponics. She recently spoke at a local TEDx event about the inefficacies in traditional food production and distribution systems.
Natalie says: “I’ve tried many growing conditions for plants and I think you can grow them under many different conditions. You have to work with your circumstances. Ideally, your indoor garden would be sustainable. The growth mediums could be sanitized and reused to lessen waste. Besides being water-efficient, vertical farming really shines in the areas of automation and data science. The ability to collect and analyze plant data constantly and instantly modify environmental factors has massive potential for produce cultivation as we know it.”
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