One of the more unique Newark-based companies will be heading over the Pulaski Skyway to the state’s second-largest city for a partnership that will grow thousands of pounds of vegetables set to be free for residents.
Earlier this week, Mayor Steve Fulop announced that Jersey City will be moving forward with a municipality-run vertical farming program. The trailblazing initiative will be in conjunction with AeroFarms, who opened what was the largest indoor farm in the world back in 2016 inside a converted steel mill in Newark.
The company has expanded since, building their newest world’s largest indoor farm in Camden. Their facilities can germinate seeds in just 12 to 48 hours and their greens are grown aeroponically, meaning the roots grow downward, dangle in the air, and are misted with water and minerals.
AeroFarms was awarded a three-year contract for $987,000 to run the partnership in Jersey City, which will consist of ten vertical farms scattered at senior centers, schools, public housing complexes, and municipal buildings. Locations will include 1 Jackson Square, Marion Gardens, Collier Senior Center, Berry Gardens, City Hall, Connors Senior Center, the Bethune Center, and three public schools.
The city’s ten sites aim to grow 19,000 pounds of vegetables annually using water mist and minimal electricity. The food will be free to members of the public who participate in five healthy eating workshops and agree to a quarterly health screening. The city’s Health and Human Service Department will run the program.
“As we work through our municipal budget that has been decimated due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we are making choices on what programs to keep.” Mayor Fulop said in a statement. “It is clear that the virus has had a disproportionate impact on people with pre-existing heart conditions, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes, which is directly linked to a person’s diet. As a result, we feel it is more important than ever to focus on food access and education.”
The vertical farming program is part of the World Economic Forum’s Healthy City 2030 initiative. Earlier this year, the group selected Moscow, Mumbai, Austin, and Jersey City to launch the endeavor, which will target measurable changes to the health of each community.
Once the City Council approves a resolution awarding a contract to AeroFarms, the farming units will take about six weeks to install, according to reporting in the Jersey Journal. The farms will start producing vegetables about two weeks later and residents who sign up for the program will have immediate access to the produce.