Farming Vertically in the Ironbound, Feeding Imaginations

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, left, takes part in the ceremonial shovel throw at groundbreaking for the AeroFarms vertical farm in the Ironbound section of Newark, NJ. (StateBroadcastNews.com/Steve Lubetkin Photo)Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, left, takes part in the ceremonial shovel throw at groundbreaking for the AeroFarms vertical farm in the Ironbound section of Newark, NJ. (StateBroadcastNews.com/Steve Lubetkin Photo)

NEWARK, NJ—(SBN)—A novel approach to the challenge of creating urban agriculture got underway in a heavily industrial section of New Jersey’s largest city on Thursday, July 9. State and local officals joined executives of AeroFarms for the groundbreaking of the company’s 69,000 square-foot, $30 million vertical farm facility in the Ironbound section.

(StateBroadcastNews.com covered the event for our media partner, GlobeSt.com, where this story first appeared.)

You can watch a video news report on the vertical farm in the player below.

The vertical farm takes advantage of AeroFarms’ advanced aeroponic technology for growing vegetables. Plants are grown on a recyclable cloth medium that allows the roots to be misted with a blend of nutrients and water. Special LED lights deliver the exact spectrum of light the plants require for most efficient photosynthesis.

AeroFarms’ vertical farm is being built on the site of a converted steel factory at 212 Rome Street. The project is a public/private partnership underwritten by the City of Newark, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, Goldman Sachs, and Newark-based Prudential Financial.

The first phase will open in the second half of 2015, creating approximately 78 jobs in a local community with an unemployment rate that is twice the national average. Additionally, AeroFarms has partnered with the Ironbound Community Corporation to create a recruiting and job training program targeting local residents.

Designed by KSS Architects, the facility will house a corporate headquarters for AeroFarms as well as the vertical farm. Construction is being managed by Hollister Construction Services.

“This is a very important moment for the city of Newark, the state of New Jersey, and for the planet and humanity, and I don’t use those terms lightly,” says David Rosenberg, CEO of AeroFarms. “This is really ringing the bell for a new way of sourcing food for our planet.”

Mayor Ras J. Baraka, Acting Gov. Kim Guadagno, members of the Newark Municipal Council, New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, and RBH Group CEO Ron Beit, and representatives of Goldman Sachs and Prudential Financial attended the ceremonies.

“These folks come in here with these ideas to help us move the city forward,” Mayor Baraka says. “We have no other choice but to embrace it, to help it grow, to help it live, to help it be a part of our community every day.”

The new facility, which also will be the corporate headquarters of AeroFarms, will occupy a converted steel factory located at 212 Rome Street, which is owned by RBH Group. The building is located on a three-acre industrial site in the center of the Ironbound community in Newark. It is adjacent to Routes 1 and 9, a freight rail right of way, and to other industrial businesses along Rome and Christie Streets.

When completed, AeroFarms will have the capacity to grow up to 2 million pounds per year of baby leafy greens and herbs in an environmentally controlled, safe, and sanitary facility. It will provide healthy foods to the local community as well as to other markets. AeroFarms is a model for successful, sustainable farming offering 75 times more productivity per square foot annually than a traditional field farm while using no pesticides and consuming over 95 percent less water.

“I think what we’ve seen here today, which is really spectacular, is fusing next generation manufacturing with community development, so you see a company that is addressing a global problem, the problem of agriculture and how do we provide enough food with much less water, while creating quality blue collar manufacturing jobs in a great city like Newark,” says Omeed Sathe, director of community investments for Prudential Financial.

 

 

About the Author

Steve Lubetkin
Award-winning news-style documentary videographer and audio reporter/podcaster.
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