A nightclub, a laser tag facility and a steel mill – you might ask yourself what these three different kinds of buildings could ever have in common. As it turns out, AeroFarms repurposed each of them into indoor vertical farming facilities, bringing new life to the old industrial buildings of Newark.
“The difficulty and the joy of sourcing space this way is that every space has different quirks,” said Marc Oshima, Chief Marketing Officer of AeroFarms. Well worth the challenge, these quirks keep the character of these old buildings alive and help preserve the city’s history.
What Is Vertical Farming?
Vertical farming is a modern indoor agriculture technology, often found in densely populated areas in response to the nation’s growing population and our subsequent need for localized, sustainable food resources.
The process involves vertically stacked layers of produce, herbs, and other plants inside of urban structures like warehouses, rooftops, recycled shipping containers and more.
Modern vertical farming features a highly technical growth process with artificial LED lighting, precise climate control, fertigation as well as hydroponic or aeroponic watering systems to yield exponentially more crops than traditional farming.
Former Steel Mill Turned Vertical Farm
What once was a steel mill is now the world’s largest indoor vertical farm. After a full-on renovation, the 75-year-industrial building houses the 70,000-square-foot global headquarters. With automated processing, the indoor aeroponic farming system is capable of growing 2 million pounds of produce annually.
Nightclub to Urban Farming Research Facility
Formerly known as a downtown nightclub, the Research and Development Farm is where the growing process is tested and perfected for optimal taste and nutritional value.
This repurposed building retains many elements of its former partygoing lifestyle. Desks fill the former VIP balcony and the swanky club lighting remains to pay homage to the many moves once busted inside its walls.
“We always try to preserve some element of the spaces original purpose to honor the history of Newark,” Oshima said.
Benefits of Aeroponic Growing Systems
Aeroponic farming yields fresher, cleaner produce with less risk of contamination. That means no pesticides, herbicides or fungicides are used at all. On top of that, aeroponic farming systems are not limited by season or weather and completely free from the threat of pests.
“Our way of farming mitigates food safety risk: no soil, completely insulated from neighboring operations, no pesticides ever and we can track a package of greens down to the exact growing tray. Most of the food safety risks simply are not an issue with our system. “
Marc Oshima | Chief Marketing Officer, AeroFarms
Why Shift to Indoor Vertical Farming?
Large-scale commercial agriculture carries the risk of foodborne illnesses from vegetables. Beyond that, the industrialized food industry can impact the health of your produce.
“Overuse of antibiotics in factory farming of livestock have created resistant bacteria, which are then sold to farmers in the form of manure or fertilizer,” Oshima explained.
Pair that with the risk of groundwater contamination and runoff from traditional agriculture and the need for aeroponic farming systems becomes apparent.
All in all, vertical farming provides a safe, controlled environment to grow exponentially more produce with exponentially less resources.
“By controlling the environment, we not only decide what light, water and nutrients the plants get; we control what they don’t get. We only provide the spectrum of light that plants need to grow, making us more efficient and effective than the sun.”
Marc Oshima | Chief Marketing Officer, AeroFarms
The Difference Between Hydroponic and Aeroponic Farming Systems
The key difference between aeroponic and traditional hydroponics is in the water.
AeroFarms uses a closed loop design, resulting in 95 percent less water usage than field farming and 40 percent less than hydroponic growing.
The patented aeroponic growing system from Aerofarms is sunless and soilless, featuring an aeroponic mist to the exposed roots, a solution chamber to provide nutrients and a cloth medium to anchor the plants.
Utilizing aeroponics in indoor farming systems dramatically decreases environmental impact associated with agriculture.
Where to Find Dream Greens From AeroFarms
Currently available from Delaware to Connecticut on the East Coast, you’ll find Dream Greens through online grocer FreshDirect. The tasty greens can also be found inside multiple New Jersey ShopRite stores, New Jersey Seabra Foods and the Whole Foods store in Newark.
Want to learn more about urban farming? See how Boston grows tasty greens from repurposed shipping containers.
Budget Dumpster is your community-focused source for a dumpster rental in Newark. This article is part of a series spotlighting organizations that are making a difference in the communities we serve. If you know of another great organization, let us know in the comments!