US (FL): Sustainable, self-sustaining farm hubs to empower local production

It started off as a dream to promote local, urban agriculture with a focus on environmental sustainability. Now, Shannon O’Malley and Brad Doyle, co-founders of Brick Street Farms have officially broken ground for their new BSF Retail Hub.

“We have a tentative opening for Summer 2022 of this year,” Shannon says. “We did experience some delays, as everyone did during these times, but at the end of the day, it was something we could work through with a little creativity. Everything is rolling along now, and we’re excited to bring our Brick Street Farms Hubs to the market.”

Founders Brad Doyle and Shannon O’Malley

Remote and self-sustaining hubs
Brick Street Farms’ project is called BSF Hub and consists of modular farms within shipping containers, including the front-of-house retail location too. In this way, the community would have access to fresh, high-quality, local food, all in one place. Pulling this off is not easy, especially considering how energy-intensive controlled environment agriculture (CEA) operations are. Yet, sustainability has always been the foundation of Brick Street Farms. “We developed a smart energy management system,” explains Shannon.

“We do have solar panels, and we plan on eventually using fully renewable energy sources; yet, as of now, sometimes it’s not enough. So, we have set up a system that selects an energy source from solar panels with a battery backup system, natural gas or pulls directly from the grid. Thanks to our smart energy management system, the facility will pull energy based on what’s most convenient at that moment. This would look not only at the cost of a given source but also at the carbon footprint.”

Brick Street Farms Hub 

In addition to a focus on carbon reduction, Brick Street Farms is saving water by self-producing the majority of the water needed to operate. The primary water source for each Hub is condensation from the cooling system, second is the rainwater catchment system, third is reclaimed nutrient water recirculated through the 4-part filtration system, and the final source is municipally supplied water.

The BSF Hub introduces a central flushed nutrient water holding and settling tank where the water is further reprocessed through their proprietary advanced water management system.  Once the water has been completely exhausted, it is stored in another on-site holding tank and used for landscaping irrigation.

Considering that BSF’s entire motivation is to better serve the local community, being aware of the environmental impact on that community fits perfectly into the company’s DNA. “We not only designed our retail hubs to be compact in the neighborhood but also to be as sustainable as possible.”

Connecting with local businesses
The BSF Hub will primarily sell the greens and other produce items grown by Brick Street Farms, as well as, other products coming from local producers. “We have different containers, each named after a major US river system, and each of them has something different growing inside,” she continues to explain. “Ohio Model is for leafy greens, strawberries and herbs, Yukon Model for microgreens and edible flowers, Colorado Model is for tomatoes or cannabis, and the Colombia Model is for mushrooms.”

Everything grown inside these modular systems is supported by a water management system that capitalizes on rainwater and condensation to further reduce the farm’s impact on the environment. During these times of supply chain disruptions, Shannon points out that communities are thrilled to have a source of local, fresh food right next door. “We are working on educating communities and the local government on true sustainability, and energy efficiency which is huge here in Florida.”

On top of the BSF Hubs, Brick Street Farms is working to implement home delivery too. “In this way, people wouldn’t need to come here to connect with the farm,” she points out. “Customers will also be able to place their order online and pick the order up in-store or in our cold-storage lockers. Since this is mainly to serve the community, the home delivery will be done in a small radius.”

Shannon believes that many more communities can benefit from such a modular, urban farm-retail system. “We’re actively raising our Series A to expand beyond Tampa Bay into other parts of Florida, invest in our technology and crop diversification,” she says. “We are focused on building smaller scalable facilities to bring production to the point of consumption. The goal is to have a direct relationship with customers, and deploy fresh, local leafy greens, tomatoes, and strawberries right in the neighborhood.”

For more information:
Shannon O’Malley, co-founder and CEO
Brick Street Farms 

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