'A dream come true': Developers break ground on Newark 'vertical farm'

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on July 09, 2015

 

NEWARK — You could be forgiven if you consider Newark's Ironbound District an unlikely place for a farm.

But Hidden away on Rome Street, however, dozens of agricultural workers are already hard at work on a cutting-edge development that will bring a touch of green to one of the former steel factories that helped give the area its name.

At a ceremony Thursday, city and state officials and developers broke ground on the $30 million project to create the world's largest indoor vertical farm.

"This is a very important moment for the city of Newark, for the state of New Jersey, for the planet, for humanity," said David Rosenberg, CEO of Aerofarms, the company that will call the building home.

Once completed, the 69,000-square foot building will house rows and rows of so-called "skyscrapers" - small towers that will use aeroponics to produce about two million pounds of green vegetables and herbs each year.

The greens will be sold to local markets, including a Whole Foods set to open on Broad Street late next year, according to Mayor Ras Baraka. AeroFarms also operates a small vertical farm at Philip's Academy Charter School, where students help grow and serve the food in their cafeteria.

The project, which is scheduled to be finished in spring 2016, will create more than 75 jobs, more than half of which will go to local residents.

The property is owned by RBH Group, which is planning to use the farm as an anchor for a wider project called "Makers Village", which will aim to bring in other environmentally minded entrepreneurs and manufacturing businesses, according to RBH CEO Ron Beit.

"This is a dream come true," said Baraka.

Speakers at the ceremony not only cited the project's boon to the area, but also of its potential to provide a roadmap for the next generation of farming, and to help conserve precious space while providing healthy, locally-grown food.

Acting Governor Kim Guadagno said the state-of-the-art science set to blossom in the understated industrial site also had more global implications.

"By 2050 there will be 9 billion people who need to eat every day. And the solution is right here on the property you're standing on," she said.

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