Farmers’ markets are one of the best ways to get fresh and local produce while supporting the local economy, but they’re mostly on the weekends, in parks, and are rarely held during the cold winter months. But what if you could get that same fresh local produce but at your neighborhood grocery store year round? New York City based BrightFarms is about to make that possible using hydroponic technology to grow produce right on the top of grocery stores! The whole concept came about in response to the alarming fact that the percentage of each dollar we spend on food that actually goes towards our food production process has been steadily declining for decades. Instead, we’re spending our money on rising oil and transportation costs.
Living on the East Coast means that other than delicious root vegetables and summer produce, we rely heavily on the West Coast and other countries around the world to produce nutritional foods during most of the months of the year. Transporting produce across a continent, some 2,800 miles in refrigerated trucks means loss of nutritional value, increased emissions, and cities dependent on distance lands for basic food needs. BrightFarms is looking to solve these major problems with hydroponic greenhouses that will grow goods such as tomatoes, lecture, herbs, peppers, cucumbers, and berries, just to name a few.
Chief executive Paul Lightfoot, a self-declared capitalist, is looking to do more than simply jump on the local food production bandwagon. He wants to turn a profit for his clients. The idea of farming atop grocery stores has floated around for some time but it has yet to catch on because local production can rarely compete with big business farming. But since hydroponic farming can yield up to eight times larger a harvest than traditional soil techniques and the growing season never really ends thanks to the greenhouses, farmers can actually sell their products for less than their competitors.
After the construction of a demonstration project at a Whole Foods in New Jersey the company wants to expand into the main stream market and has so far had seven other Whole Foods sign letters of intent to install greenhouses. The company, which grew out of NY Sun Works, will design, finance, own, and operate the farms while the grocery stores will enter into an agreement to buy the produce for 10 years at a price tied to the consumer price index.
BrightFarms greenhouses will require less water than traditional farms and are free of chemicals, so they won’t contribute to the growing problem of agricultural runoff. Plus, no transportation cost or travel time means fresher, better looking produce and a dramatically reduce carbon footprint. The company has six years of experience designing greenhouses for a variety of uses such as NY Sun Work’s Science Barge, PS 333: Manhattan School for Children and Cypress Hills Community School, as well as Gotham Greens for-profit greenhouse in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Forest Houses, an affordable housing complex planned for the South Bronx.
Stay informed about new projects and when you can expect a greenhouse atop your local grocery store by checking out BrightFarms blog.
Images © BrightFarms