With supply chains recently disrupted due to COVID-19, chef John Lekic began looking for an alternative to ensure the availability of fresh greens. The owner of Farmers & Chefs restaurant in Poughkeepsie, NY, opted to install a vertical urban farm on March 25.
The Vertical Farm from agro-tech provider Vertical Field is a soil-based, transportable platform that can quickly grow pesticide-free crops indoors or outdoors. Vertical Farms use a 20-ft. or 40-ft. container equipped with advanced sensors that provide a controlled environment; the technology constantly monitors, irrigates and fertilizes crops throughout every growth stage.
In just a few weeks, its Vertical Farm yielded enough greens and herbs to make Farmers & Chefs self-sufficient in production capacity. Its first harvest included butter-crunch lettuce, Russian red kale and arugula.
“We already use the herbs from our vertical farm as an ingredient in our specialty cocktails and ice creams we produce,” Lekic says. “Ninety-percent of the products are salad greens that we use in our restaurant and food trucks, as well as raw salad greens that we sell to our customers for retail purchase.”
Freshness and quality are major selling points for customers, he notes. “They know they can purchase the best and freshest salad greens directly from their local restaurant.”
Farmers & Chefs installed the 20-ft.-long, vertical container farm outside next to the restaurant, Lekic says. “It’s close to one of our kitchens, and visible from our outside bar/deck to our customers—and to the visitors of the Walkway over the Hudson NY state park.”
If your operation is too small for a Vertical Farm, it’s possible to share it with other surrounding businesses. For example, Evergreen Kosher Market in Monsey, NY, in early June opened a Vertical Field farm and will be sharing the greens with a nearby restaurant located in the same strip mall.