US (NY): Where mushrooms grow just a few feet from the table

A Bushwick company is growing crops inside the restaurants they supply. The company is Smallhold, a distributed farm startup; its first product is the mushroom, which is being grown in two city restaurants–Bunker in Bushwick and Mission Chinese Food in Manhattan–that lease small, refrigerator-sized units controlled by Smallhold from its headquarters. “There is demand for extreme freshness, the freshest possible,” said Andrew Carter, the company’s co-founder and CEO. “The result is the mushrooms look better and are better nutritionally.”

After graduating from the University of Vermont, he consulted on hydroponic farming around the city and was involved with the notable Brooklyn agricultural-tech project WindowFarm, which in 2012 raised more than $250,000 on Kickstarter for a kit that grows vegetables from hanging containers.

The restaurants rent the units and also pay a per-pound price that can range from $5 to $12. When the crop is ready, the chefs harvest them for the dishes they are preparing. The company also operates a North Brooklyn Produce Hub, a repurposed shipping contained outfitted with the company’s minifarms to supply nearby restaurants with fresh mushrooms.

Mushrooms are not the only crop that can be grown this way. Carter says the company is working on extending its products to lettuce, herbs and other vegetables. “We are focusing on mushrooms right now due to the demand by the market. Leafy greens will be further down the road.”

Read more at The Bridge (Dan Callahan)

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