Like many in the New York area, Gotham Greens caught my attention with a greenhouse installed in the first Whole Foods store in Brooklyn. The sight of four glass structures atop a massive brick building in Gowanus is a great microcosm of the ideas behind urban agriculture.
There is no longer a need to monopolize precious square footage on the ground floor, especially by building on top of an existing building. It also really pushed the idea of a direct conveyor from truss to table. The latter is necessary to compensate for the disastrous consequences of truckloads of fresh produce and salad thousands of miles across the country. Gotham’s greenhouses aren’t vertical farms by definition, but they do use some of the same basic principles.
This week, the New York-based company announced plans to double the number of square feet of greenhouses before the end of the year. By 2022, Gotham says it will increase greenhouse capacity from 600,000 square feet to 1.2 million. This currently includes developments in Texas, Georgia and Colorado, as well as expansions in Chicago and Rhode Island. They join existing offices in New York, Rhode Island, Maryland, Illinois, Colorado and California.
Greenhouses have many advantages over conventional agriculture, including the ability to grow all year round. This category has been extremely popular in European countries, especially in the Netherlands, and is now gaining more and more popularity along with its sister field of vertical farming. The latter, of course, allows companies to grow bigger and pack more crops, while the former gets more direct energy from the sun rather than relying entirely on LEDs.
Co-founder and CEO Viraj Puri said, “We’re committed to delivering Gotham Greens fresh produce to 90% of US consumers within a day’s drive of our greenhouse, and these strategic greenhouse expansion projects bring us closer to that milestone.”
Given the general pressure on urban centers like New York, moving from Gotham to California has already been something of a headache, as the state already produces 13% of America’s crops. However, the company notes that it is “deliberately expanding its operations in regions of the United States most affected by the effects of climate change.”