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US (NY): Urban farm grows ugly greens in Brooklyn

Good greens don’t have to ‘look’ pretty. Even ‘ugly’ produce is just as delicious. This is something Gotham Greens has discovered through its recent Ugly Greens movement. What may have once been considered unmarketable produce was enjoyed by the staff at work or home instead. “We’d enjoy them as part of a team meal and staff would take them home to eat,” explains CEO, Viraj Puri. “But we realized there was an opportunity to sell them while helping to bring attention to the issue of food waste. The amount of food waste in this country is staggering and the NRDC estimates that as much as 50% of produce is thrown out between the farm and the fork.” They’re hoping to show people that slightly blemished greens can be perfectly nutritious, fresh and local despite their cosmetic flaws. “By embracing cosmetically-challenged produce as beautiful, we’re hoping to play a small role in reducing food waste,” he adds.

Food is wasted for cosmetic reasons
Food waste is a concerning issue for consumers, something all retailers and growers should keep top of mind. Puri says that in the US over 70 billion pounds of food is wasted each year which amounts to 250 pounds per person. “Much of what’s discarded is done merely for cosmetic reasons or as a result of long distance transportation. This negatively impacts farmers, retailers and ultimately consumers.” Changing consumer’s preferences towards slightly blemished or imperfect fruits and vegetables is an additional way to address the issue. Feedback on Gotham’s program has been overwhelming, according to Puri and even though it’s a small part of their production and overall business, they’re excited to see the positive feedback.

Current greens being grown and harvested include about a dozen varieties of leafy greens, arugula, and basil. And, supply is good. “Our current production is very strong,” he says. “We’re able to offer our customers a very reliable and consistent supply of greens all year round.”

Year-round availability
Gotham Greens stands by its model of urban agriculture, something Puri says is appreciated by chefs and retail produce buyers. “We grow premium quality local produce in high tech, climate controlled greenhouses, year round. That means, even in the dead of winter, we provide our customers— supermarkets, restaurants, caterers—with fresh produce within a couple of hours of harvest.” Produce is pesticide-free, grown using ecologically sustainable methods in 100% clean, electricity-powered greenhouses. He says this also results in providing precision plant nutrition and optimal growing conditions for the plants. “Hydroponic farming, when practiced effectively, can be very efficient, using a fraction of the amount of resources as traditional farming practices. This enables us to use one tenth the amount of water as traditional soil based practices, while also eliminating all agricultural runoff.”

There may be plans of expansion in the works. Gotham Greens has several new projects planned which could bring urban farming to other cities across the US and globally. “We have several new projects in the works and look forward to sharing more information about them in the coming months.”

For more information:
Viraj Puri
Gotham Greens

Publication date: 8/8/2017



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