BEFORE YOU GO
Getting its name from its method of growing crops called aeroponics, urban agriculture company AeroFarms, is set to open its 70,000-square-foot indoor vertical farm and global headquarters in Newark with a goal to not only provide fresh and healthy food options to the city and its customers, but to provide jobs and community support as well.
“We have a patented growing system that was developed by Dr. Ed Hardwood, a former professor at Cornell University,” says Marc Oshima, AeroFarms chief marketing officer. “We use a cloth medium to help with seeding, germination, growing and harvesting, LED lighting to help provide more efficient photosynthesis, and a spray mist that provides roots with the nutrients plants need to grow. This process allows up to 75 times more productivity per-square-foot than a traditional farm and uses 95 percent less water.”
Oshima says that producing baby leafy greens, herbs and micro greens with aeroponics results in a fresher, cleaner and healthier product.
“All of our products are grown using non-GMO seeds,” he says. “Because plants are produced in a controlled environment, we don’t use any pesticides, which make for a healthier, ready-to-eat product. And, with being in that controlled environment, everything can be optimized to our liking. Plants out in a field may take 30 to 45 days to grow. We can grow them in only 12 to 16 days. … And due to our ability to grow year round, we yield much more product and can provide consistent employment, where other traditional farms may not be able to do that.”
The first phase of AeroFarms’ facility is set to open by the end of the year and, according to Oshima, will be the largest indoor vertical farm in the world. Upon completion, the farm is expected to bring approximately 78 jobs to the Newark community.
“We have partnered with the Ironbound Community Corporation to create a recruiting and job training program that targets residents in the area,” Oshima says. “The partnership has already provided us with key hires and we hope to continue to do that moving forward.”
The company’s facility has also received public investments from the “city of Newark, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, as well as New Market Tax Credit allocation from Goldman Sachs, United Fund Advisors and Dudley Ventures,” and more than $30 million of financing led by Goldman Sachs’ Urban Investment Group and Prudential Financial, Oshima says.
Ommeed Sathe, vice president of impact investments at Prudential Financial, Inc., says, “AeroFarms approached us early in their development because they knew our capital could be a strong fit with their model. We were very happy to help them finance their headquarters in Newark, which has been our home for 140 years. … And, by growing right here in the city, they can harvest and deliver their produce to market in a single day and provide residents and businesses the benefits of greener, cleaner food.