“In February 2022, we had to lay off all the employees of our Brooklyn farm while the building was sitting there, including all the equipment. We were trying to find a buyer for the business, which we found, but unfortunately, they pulled out of the deal. We were still paying for all the machinery. I was there trying to keep us above water, but after months of trying, I was convinced that Farm.One was no more,” says Rob Laing, Founder of the New York-based farm.
Closing down the farm in February 2022
Judged too quickly?
On that note, Rob decided to take some time off and go on a long-dreamed-of holiday and shake off some stress. Yet, in the midst of his vacation, he was approached by an investor with an extensive background in investment that focused on restructuring companies. The investor was really intrigued by Farm.One and acquired more information on the business model and history of the company. Returning from his getaway, Rob had 10 days before they would be evicted from the Brooklyn facility, so he showed Derek around.
The tables turned quickly, as one week later, both parties had come to an agreement with the landlord on all the equipment. “We were farming again, literally within three weeks. Coming back online was a crazy time, and it finally gave us a chance to fix things we’d been waiting on for so long.”
An updated grow room
Neighborhood farm 2.0
Adding onto that, Rob points out that Derek helped them to upgrade our equipment and improve our Brooklyn facility. “When we initially moved into the building, we were tight on the investment. With this new funding, Farm.One has laid new concrete, added more growing layers to the farm, and built out our showroom space. Now it’s really turning into a vision of what we think the neighborhood farm could be. Luckily, we have also been hiring back a lot of the existing team.”
Ever since March 2023, Farm.One has been able to harvest products again for a selected group of members, and deliveries to Manhattan and Brooklyn have just kicked off this month. Rob affirms that the business model is going to be the same as previously, focusing on consumer salad greens, herbs, and edible flowers and sales of their specialty produce to restaurants.
Exciting things up next
Currently, the team is also developing an entirely new beverage program that will include botanical ingredients from the farm. On top of that, tours are now available to give anyone a chance to see inside one of the world’s most exciting vertical farms.
Expanding capacity, more grow racks will be added soon, as for now, the farm only uses half of the growing area. Rob gives away that the plan is to install more racks in August once things have simmered down a bit. “Right now, we have the capacity to serve about 80 restaurants and over 250 members. We expect to sell out of this capacity quite soon.”
Ready for delivery!
A second chance
Concluding. Rob shares that 2022 was quite a tough journey. “In such a new industry, we often focus more on stories about new farms opening, but the past 18 months have seen a lot of farms go through difficult times. I feel extremely lucky that we survived. It certainly gave me a lot of perspectives and helped me evaluate what’s important.”
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