Ask any New Jerseyan – the city of Newark definitely does not call to mind rolling pastures or green fields. It's got the highest population of any city in New Jersey, and at one time, was christened "The Most Dangerous City in the Nation" by Time Magazine. But due to extensive efforts by businesses and investors alike, Newark has begun to turn a corner. AeroFarms, just one of the projects soon to grace the city's Ironbound district, is hopeful that it will play a role in rewriting the city's history of pollution and poverty.
Slated to be the world's largest indoor vertical farm, AeroFarms' facility will produce 2 million pounds of kale, arugula, spinach, and other leafy greens annually. Their farming system is sustainable, energy efficient, and uses a fraction of the resources consumed by traditional farming methods.
They use a system dubbed "aeroponics," in which plants are grown in a soilless and sunless environment; instead, seedlings take root in a reusable fabric medium and absorb energy from LED lights. Rather than being watered, plants are sprayed with a nutrient-rich mist – which cuts down AeroFarms water usage down by 95%, compared to traditional field farmers. In these ideal conditions, the time it takes plants to reach maturity is drastically reduced as well. Whereas a traditional farmer produces around 3 harvests per year, AeroFarms projects they'll gather at least 30 per year.
See mockups of the new facility below:
With any luck, AeroFarms will create jobs for the Newark community, and increase the urban population's access to fresh, healthy foods. One of the reasons companies like AeroFarms are so exciting is that they can help make big steps towards solving problems associated with increasing urbanization, population growth, resource scarcity, and food access. I'm really glad this project will be coming to one of the most troubled areas of my home state, and I hope to hear about many more sustainable, resource-efficient food technologies becoming reality in the near future. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for AeroFarms and similar companies will be getting the public to accept food that has been grown in such an "artificial" environment; but to my mind, that's a huge improvement on the pesticide-soaked traditional produce we find in supermarkets today!