A Very Different Kind of Farm Grows in Newark

AeroFarms employs aeroponics technology to grow greens in vertical stacks of beds without soil or water
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 15, 2016 5:48 PM CDT
A Very Different Kind of Farm Grows in Newark
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie answers a question during a gathering at AeroFarms, a vertical farming operation, Thursday, March 24, 2016, in Newark, N.J.   (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

The proposal might sound unlikely: Take an abandoned steel mill in Newark, NJ, and build a so-called vertical farm, the world's largest. In so doing, revive a rundown area, produce more crops in less space far faster than in a field, use fewer resources, and pack in more nutrients than leafy greens grown from the great outdoors. All that while producing greens that taste, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently said, "Fabulous. No dressing necessary." AeroFarms has invested $30 million into this dream, and proponents call the vertical growing system the "Third Green Revolution," reports the Guardian. Oh, and they also hope to help end world hunger—or at least work on dealing with food shortages as the global population continues to climb. "We’ve taken the volatility of Mother Nature out of the equation," the marketing director tells the New York Times. And: "We’re offering year-round employment."

The company currently employs 100 people and promises to bring more jobs to the region soon; New Jersey's Economic Development Authority has bought in, throwing $6.5 million in tax credits. What AeroFarms has grown is limited to short-stemmed leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and arugula, though it's tested more than 250 greens and hopes in time to expand to other crops, such as tomatoes and berries. And it expects to churn out 30 harvests totaling 2 million pounds of greens a year, reports Tech Insider. It all happens on 30-foot-tall machines decked out in LED lights and microfleece membranes that house the roots in a nutrient-dense mist. Oh and no pesticides, because, well, no pests. (Speaking of pesticides, strawberries now top the "dirty dozen" list.)

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