US (NY): $100k pilot program launches vertical farm in restaurant's vacant upper floor

You don’t have to drive too far in the right direction to spot a traditional farm. Although harder to see in the middle of winter, the North Country has its fair share of cattle and cornfields. One place that hasn’t been home to farming, though, is downtown Glens Falls. But that’s all about to change.

22 Ridge St., part of Glens Falls’ downtown and home to the pharmacy resto-bar restaurant, has empty space on its upper floors. It’s the kind of space that’s sat disused for years or more; and just the kind that Economic Development Director Jeff Flagg was looking for when starting a project to bring hydroponic “vertical farming” to the city.

“The idea was that, while COVID shut everything down, you could repurpose this kind place into a little farm,” said Flagg on Monday, speaking about steps in the planning process that took place around the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Then, if a couple of years later the owner came along and wanted to use that space or rent it, you could dismantle the whole thing and build it somewhere else.”

The third floor of 22 Ridge St. is set to become the home of the first-ever Glens Falls Urban Agriculture Pilot. The goal is to build an indoor farm there, to grow things like fresh basil, lettuce, and fruits, that would go to nearby restaurants and markets, keeping the food stream local. The pilot program is being fueled by a nearly $100K Smart Cities Innovation Partnership grant that the city applied for in early 2020. If a restaurant needs a reliable source for fresh basil – Flagg’s example – the vertical farm would help them get it without any risk factors associated with transport time, weather hazards or any other factors that can get in the way of an already-rattled supply chain. The only limits would be those of the operation’s size.

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