by Amber

Vertical Farming Arrives in Newark, NJ

At the moment, AeroFarms consists of a single 5 tier rack of aeroponically-grown greens, but they’ve got both financial-sector backing, and the space to grow phenomenally. Recent headlines popped up all over the internet claiming this to be the ‘largest vertical farm in the world’. I question how this is possible though when their 69,000 square foot space is about 25% less than Farmed Here has in Chicago, and a shelf shorter too. Still, AeroFarms broadcasts their expected annual production at 2 billion pounds, while other huge indoor vertical farms are turning out 1-1.5 million pounds a year.

Bear in mind that these are projections. Planning is one thing, bringing what you’ve got on paper to fruit is another. At the time this was written no current numbers could be located for annual Farmed Here harvest size. They may have surpassed the 1 million pound threshold long ago, because their production was set to triple by 2014 the last time anyone cared to talk about the vast amount of food this Chicago indoor farm could turn out. If they met their goal at Farmed Here, they should be harvesting 3 million pounds by now. So, again it’s puzzling that so many titles portray AeroFarms will be the largest indoor vertical farm in the world.

Time will tell, and we’ll have to wait quite a while to see how on-target the Ivy-league executive team are with their plans. Actual production isn’t set to begin until 2016.

AeroFarms isn’t a true newcomer to the indoor farming league. They’ve been using aeroponics to grow leafy greens commercially in upstate New York since 2009, supplying renown eateries and area grocers with fresh greens using the same system that will populate this old ironworks building across the river from New York City. It’s arrival will certainly benefit many NYC residents, where fresh food can be very scarce since most of it comes from far away.

The new $30 million dollar indoor farm on Rome Street in the Ironbound neighborhood will bring new jobs to an area that has high unemployment at the same time it breathes new life, and fresh industry into a neighborhood that has seen better days. But the economic redevelopment grants, tax breaks and municipal funding that comes with these kinds of startups are just the beginning of the perks at AeroFarms. They’ve also got Goldman Sachs and Prudential Financial funding.

Many an indoor grower might wonder over the choice of aeroponics. It’s not a small venture, and with aeroponics your crop can rapidly die should that nutrient-rich mist cease to exist. The one reason that large urban farms prefer hydroponics and aquaponics is aeroponic’s room for major failure. Blackouts and power outages will quickly lead to crop loss in aeroponics… something that hurricanes, ice storms, and equipment failure are famous for delivering to the Northeast coast. It’s something that requires a great deal of bravery to try, because this kind of stuff does happen, but most urban farm startups don’t have investment banking crowd funding either. An interesting twist for Wall Street – creating futures instead of trading them.

Learn more about AeroFarms on their website.

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The garden played a starring role from spring through fall in the house Amber was raised in. She has decades of experience growing plants from seeds and cuttings in the plot and pots.