“We build farms close to the communities we are serving in and that cuts down on food miles,” Seawell, the chief commercial officer for Bowery Farms, explains. One of those communities is the New York metro area, which has become a case study for what the impact of vertical farming can be and a model for how to address the elements of climate change fueled by the agricultural business.
“Bowery’s journey started by answering the questions of how you provide fresh food for an urban environment and how to do that in a way that is more efficient and much more sustainable,” said Irving Fain, the company’s CEO and founder.
Bowery Farms, a large vertical farm company in the United States, is a testament to the interest in revamping the food industry to meet sustainability goals. The company reportedly grows 80,000 pounds of produce a week and is expanding. It recently opened a facility in Baltimore and will open another in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Bowery is far from alone. Down the road from its Kearny facility is Aerofarms, nestled on a side street blocks away from Newark Liberty International Airport. Aerofarms grows more than 500 different types of fruits and vegetables in its facilities, from arugula to baby bok choy.
Competitor Square Root is also expanding its operations, but its products are more scalable since its farms use recycled shipping containers that can easily be deployed just about anywhere. They also operate larger facilities in Michigan and around New York.
None of these companies has been slowed by the current supply chain disruptions afflicting many industries in the U.S. Vertical farming is not limited by the trucker, pesticide, or cardboard box shortages that hit the rest of the farming industry. “We do seeding, growing, processing, and stage for delivery all on the farm,” Seawell says.
Within vertical farms, crops are sheltered from extreme weather. “We are immune from this because we are able to fully control our climate,” Aerofarms co-founder Marc Oshima tells.
Another plus of vertical farming is that pesticides are not even in the equation. The extremely tight control these companies exert in the farm facilities means there are few concerns about contamination and illness caused by toxic chemicals, bugs, invasive species, or vermin. Regardless, as Seawell demonstrated, these companies are not taking any chances: staff and visitors are still required to wear a full bodysuit with shoe covers, rubber gloves, and a hairnet to limit any foreign contaminants.
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