Growing greenhouse produce in the sweltering Mojave desert within a two-mile drive from the Las Vegas Strip. It might sound like a mirage, but for the enthusiastic group behind Urban Seed, it will soon become a green reality.
Urban Seed was founded with the mission to increase the access to locally grown food, educate consumers about healthy eating and decrease the environmental footprint of produce with the help of scalable proprietary food production and packaging systems.
On July 29 last year, the group consisting of a balanced mix of experienced entrepreneurs with financial firepower and several young trailblazers, unraveled their plans for a total of six greenhouses on Wynn Road, Las Vegas. Backed by an impressive line-up of Las Vegas hospitality groups, chefs and experienced business people with ties to the local food chain and tech space, Urban Seed has big plans to supply its wide range of greenhouse-grown fresh produce to the chefs on the Las Vegas strip.
"Soon we will break ground on the first two greenhouses that have a total production area of 13,000 square feet.", said Urban Seed's VP of Marketing Jared Krulewitz. "You know you are a trailblazer when there's no building codes for your project, its like putting a circle in a square. Due to the lack of Urban Agriculture code, we have been working with our state senators to create the Urban Agriculture Policy to help companies like ours get started in Las Vegas."
According to Krulewitz, who is also one of the enthusiastic co-founders of the project, permit issues are just one of the last challenges that the Urban Seed team has to overcome. He welcomed us to their headquarter office located on an industrial area located within a 10 minute drive from the strip. The plan is that the existing office buildings on their land will soon be surrounded by a total of six greenhouses to produce leafy greens, root vegetables and other crops to supply chefs of hotels and casinos like Stratosphere, MGM and The Venetian.
Urban Seed co-founder Jared Krulewitz can't wait to break ground for the greenhouses on Wynn Road, a few minutes off the Las Vegas Strip, with hotels like Paris Las Vegas and Mandalay Bay as a backdrop.
"Urban Seed is a technology company at heart", said Krulewitz when starting off his presentation. He explained that they spent a lot of R&D on food systems and that they are designing their own production and packaging systems to increase the availability of nutrient-dense locally grown food in almost any city or climate.
"The six greenhouses that we will erect in Las Vegas will serve as a showcase for our proprietary system. Because when you can grow in the desert, you can grow in almost any other climate."
When fully up and running, the greenhouses can make for an annual production of 1,500 tons per year. "Depending on the varieties, of course. We will start with up to 25 different varieties in our system, from all kinds of fruits, herbs, root vegetables and leafy greens like spinach and cabbage. It is our goal to show the diversity in which we can grow using our A-frame aeroponic system. This will not only increase the availability of local food, but will also create jobs and drive millions back into the local economy."
Krulewitz acknowledges that these six greenhouses will never be enough to replace all of the imported produce on the Las Vegas Strip. But that is not the goal either.
"First we want to educate and create awareness about the inefficiency of the current food system. In Las Vegas and other large cities, trucked in produce has a huge carbon footprint, an extremely short shelf life and a lack of taste and nutrition. By teaming up with chefs, restaurants and other important Las Vegas stake holders, we can show that it is possible to create a change by producing hyper local, nutrient-dense food that reaches the kitchen within 1-5 hours and comes with 90% less food miles."
Educating, empowering and encouraging people about healthy and sustainable eating is also the reason why Urban Seed plans to incorporate a special media studio to film content at their demonstration property. This is part of their social mission to empower humanity; they want every community to have access to fresh food and show that there are better things to eat than just Big Macs and Baconators.
"We will use the studio to enable partnering chefs to be thought leaders and show their love for cooking. It is all about giving them a voice and platform to make more people enthusiastic about cooking and eating healthy food."
Creating such a platform and increasing the awareness around locally grown food, should help Urban Seed to deploy their system on a much larger scale too.
"In the future we are looking at buying another, bigger piece of property in Las Vegas to expand our capacity and build another 100 boutique greenhouse systems,. Not just to supply the hotel groups on The Strip, but also to bring more healthy, fresher food to our local communities through restaurants and farmers markets."
But first things first; within the next few weeks the construction of the first two 6,500 square feet structures will begin. California based greenhouse manufacturer Conley will supply the custom structures, but apart from that, Urban Seed will use only their own developed technology.
From a vertical patent pending a-frame aeroponic production system to in-house developed systems for water filtration and climate control. Special shade cloths and a cooling wall will keep the crops cool in the hot summer months.
"Our team of engineers have spent ten years designing and proving these systems and have eventually chosen for a modular aeroponic system because it is the most efficient way to grow high yields with the least amount of natural resources. This vertical system also allows us to grow at a higher production per square foot. We designed and will manufacture everything ourselves, and it's all made to scale."
With just a few more weeks to go, Urban Seed hopes to have the first structures up and running and pick the first 'beyond organic' fruits of their labor.
"We are beyond organic because we will grow in a controlled environment and are 100% non GMO. It's also our goal to empower people about this and show them that it takes more than just organic certification to become this sustainable."
Please stay tuned for more information on the ongoing developments at Urban Seed. See also www.urbanseedinc.com.