AeroFarms will soon surpass itself as the world’s largest indoor vertical farm with a second and larger New Jersey location in Camden. Set to be operational by 2018, Farm No. 10 will be 78,000 square feet on the 1500 block of Broadway. They are still working on the design of the facility and will need to gain local zoning approvals, but the biggest victory was already won when AeroFarms LLC was awarded an $11.14 million grant in tax incentives by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.
Farm No. 9 in Newark, New Jersey, is currently the world’s largest indoor vertical farm based on annual growing capacity and where, in a converted steel mill, they harvest up to 2 million pounds a year. AeroFarms is able to germinate seeds in 12 to 48 hours–a process that typically takes 8 to 10 days–and focuses on growing leafy greens like baby kale and arugula and packaging under the name “Dream Greens” for distribution locally in North Jersey and Manhattan. Farm No. 10 in Camden will supply South Jersey and Philadelphia.
The greens are grown “aeroponically,” meaning the roots grow downward, dangle in the air, and are misted with water and minerals. And the process dispenses with premium elements like land and water: “We can grow on one acre what would normally take 130 acres on a field farm. And we use 75 percent less water [than hydroponics],” said Co-founder and CEO David Rosenberg.
AeroFarms has come far since Farm No. 1 in a converted kayak shop in Ithaca, New York, where Ed Harwood, an associate professor in the Cornell University School of Agriculture, became interested in growing things without the elements that grow things: soil, sunlight, a lot of water. Now Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer, his biggest breakthrough was developing the root mister that doesn’t clog. Also developed for this practice of vertical farming is a cloth made of recycled soda bottles on which the seeds germinate and through which the roots grow downward.
Even the lighting is specially calibrated and everything is monitored electronically. AeroFarms recently won a “vision” award at the Global Food Innovation Summit in Milan which was an especially exciting honor as it recognizes “the coolest vision of how the world should work,” said Mr. Rosenberg.
The tax incentives enabling AeroFarms to open their second facility in Camden are part of the Grow New Jersey Assistance Program Grants which incentivize businesses to relocate or start-up in economically challenged areas, infusing the local economy, workforce, and property with capital, opportunities, and improvements.