In a nondescript warehouse on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis, the growers at Farm 360 are growing vegetables through a hydroponic system that is 100 percent powered by renewable energy. The farm's full circle approach allows the cultivation of fresh, local food that uses 90 percent less water than traditional farming methods and is sold in Indiana grocery stores year-round. Farm 360 produces more food than any other indoor or outdoor space in the city and provides employment and growth opportunities in a neighborhood that has endured challenging times. A farmer at Farm 360 checks on the lettuce crop.
Farm 360’s hydroponic growing system relies on an array of thousands of energy-efficient LED lights which bathe rows upon rows of vegetables with pink light. Nutrient rich water is pumped below the plants through large, plastic drums and is then channeled to each individual through small tubes. “We’re going to keep redesigning to become as efficient as possible,” said farm manager Jim Bloom. “We’re even looking into solar power. We really want to be as self-sufficient as we can.” There are currently five separate growing areas within the warehouse that are used to produce basil, mint, kale, lettuce, spinach, chard, and arugula. “In total, the farm grows around 35 different types of greens,” Bloom said. “And we can turn a head of lettuce in about 30 days.”
Sustainable Local Foods Indiana in partnership with the Englewood Community Development Corp. selected the warehouse site with the goal of injecting energy and resources into an area that has been federally designated as a “Promise Zone,” highlighted by the Obama Administration as high priority for redevelopment. “We like to repurpose what we consider to be underutilized buildings in communities where it can add real value,” said Bloom.
In 2015, the neighborhood had a 47 percent poverty rate and about 24 percent unemployment rate. Since opening, Farm 360 has created living-wage twelve jobs within the community and will be staffed with thirty employees by the end of 2016. “We want people to be able to walk or ride their bike to work,” Bloom said. “The goal is to have 70 to 75 percent of our employees live right here on the east side. These are the people who want to revitalize the area.”
Via No Mean City
Images via Esther Boston