BrightFarms CEO, Paul Lightfoot is obsessed with efficiency. Spending most of his career improving market supply chains he has now turned his attention to the market supply chains of America’s produce. BrightFarms is an innovative and straight forward program whose goal is to eliminate the wasted energy expended on travel times between the farm and the shelf, to provide more nutritious and safer produce that is grown for the table and not for the endurance of days and weeks of transport, and to create a local market where consumers know their farmers and where the food is coming from and who is responsible for growing it. Littlefoot describes the blatant problems with the food industry today – efficiently factory farming and preserving produce that moves from one and end of the country to the other and inefficiently providing nutritious and tasty produce.
The challenge is to create a model that ensures quality while keeping costs down and BrightFarms appears to have found a strategy that works: hydroponic rooftop gardening near supermarket distribution centers or local markets. The newly renamed Federal Plaza #2, soon to be known as Liberty View Industrial Plaza to be developed by Salmar Properties, in Brooklyn, NY is set to be the world’s largest rooftop garden which will reportedly grow “1 million pounds of local produce per year, including tomatoes, lettuces and herbs”. Find out how it works after the break!
BrightFarms business model seems simple – and too good to be true. The company is essentially a middle man – connecting experienced and reliable local farmers with credited grocery stores – that finances, develops and builds the BrightFarm operation. BrightFarms ensures that both parties enter into individual agreements with the program. The grocery stores are obligated to purchase the output of the farms for a 10-year period, while farmers must guarantee the volume and quality of output. And of course the key ingredient to making this operation distinct from the trends of the country is the proximity of the farms, farmers and grocery stores. Community is essential.
Aside from providing goods that are fresher and more nutritious, BrightFarms hydroponic system also reduces carbon output drammatically. Hydroponic farming delivers nutrients to plants directly through the water without soil. These systems can be trays or columns made of PVC that expose the roots to the nutrient and mineral filled water. No soil means no land use and no heavy, gas-guzzling equipment. The water in the system can be reused, There is greater control of the nutrients which means reduced waste and the water stays in the system and can be reused which greatly reduces the agricultural runoff. It also consolidates space, which makes maintenance and harvesting much easier.
The system is perfect for urban rooftop applications, which is why Liberty View Industrial Plaza is set to be the model for urban agriculture covering the rooftop of an 8-story 1.1 million-square-foot warehouse building along Brooklyn’s Industrial Waterfront in Sunset Park. The project will provide innumerable benefits for the city. It will provide enough produce to feed 5,000 New Yorkers, will create an anticipated 1,300 permanent industrial jobs and 400 construction Jobs, and will relieve the over-burdened sewer system of 1.8 million gallons of storm water from entering the waterways. It is also a plan that is part of Mayor Bloomberg’s initiative to revitalize Brooklyn’s waterfront – which is already underway at the Brooklyn Navy Yard aka Navy Hill.
Everyone is optimistic that the project will not only bring fresh and healthy food and revitalized attitude toward local farming, but will also push the long-dormant industrial buildings into a new territory of sustainable development for cities. Follow this link to see other projects by BrightFarms.