Tower Talks: Tower Farming with Green Food Solutions
Tower Garden is known as an easy, simple way to grow fresh produce at home. However, organizations like Green Food Solutions use Tower Garden and its aeroponic technology to address real world problems such as food security in urban areas.
Based in New York City, Green Food Solutions is a Tower Farm, which comprises multiple Tower Garden growing systems and produces enough food to serve local communities. Founders Mary and Electra have amazing stories to share. Hear more about their journey below.
How did you get involved with vertical farming?
Mary: My involvement with vertical farming started when I met Electra. My background is in health and business, and I owned a wellness center in Montclair, N.J., for over 17 years. Electra has her Masters of Sustainable Environmental Systems from Pratt Institute. There she was inspired by vertical farming in the context of city landscapes and presented her capstone project on how vertical farming can be a means for food justice in urban areas.
We started our company Green Food Solutions to address food justice and food security inside our mission to empower a new local food system. My involvement in vertical farming started after attending Green Tech 2016 conference in Amsterdam along with Electra. It was there that we saw a huge need. There are only 7 or 8 different types of hydroponics, but hundreds if not thousands of different brands. Many systems we observed were not economically feasible for urban farming or went far too high tech.
We want farmers to be successful. Urban farming is needed and is a huge part of our future's food production for resilient cities. The equipment and resources they need will vary based on each individual project. Tower Farms are financially feasible and work in any urban setting or greenhouse.
What made you begin growing with Tower Farms specifically?
We grow using Tower Farms and recommend Tower Garden to our clients because they are the highest quality vertical hydroponic growing system with high yields and an unbeatable price. Food justice and food security are very important to us.
We see many large vertical farm companies pop up locally that are still in the red and have very high electrical needs with their systems. Many of these large startups are not yet proven to work. When we grew in a shipping container our electricity bill was $600 per month. It wasn't a profitable system. Tower Farms are profitable, and we show our clients a business plan template to show how they will make a profit before we sell them a system. If the current large vertical farm companies fail, we won't have real food security in our cities.
What is the history of Green Food Solutions and when was it established?
We unofficially started our company Green Food Solutions in November 2016. We participated in the Square Roots program, a business accelerator program, and set up our Instagram page. We farmed in a shipping container, and while it was really cool, we quickly learned that if hydroponic vertical farming was going to be a means for food justice and food security in cities, it needed to work financially.
We soon started to grow in the towers outside of our shipping container. As we led training and events about growing hydroponically in the community and to people interested in vertical farming, we saw the Tower Farm system as the best one to use. We have since been offering our farm training and planning resources while helping our clients start successful commercial farms in cities around the world. We officially incorporated our company in December 2017.
What is your favorite thing about having access to fresh produce?
Hyper local food production brings a healthier, more sustainable future for everyone. This is honestly my favorite part. Food security in our cities will help us be resilient. We believe that by flooding cities with freshly harvested food, we are dismantling the industrial food system and empowering a new local food system. It's basic economics: When the supply is abundant, it will drive down prices, making food more affordable and accessible.
You mentioned that you have a new indoor Tower Farm location opening in Manhattan. Can you tell us more about that?
Yes! Waterline Square is another residential building with amenities for its residents. They are using 15 Tower Gardens, and all the food is grown for the people who live in the building. We have been eager to grow fresh food for residents to help reduce the number of trips to the grocery store. Residents will be able to pick their own food with the guidance of the Green Food Solutions staff or simply pick up food from an on-site farm stand.
Our ‘Farm Amenities’ are a really great resource for urban residents especially during COVID-19 because they can still have access to fresh food while remaining socially distant. We just seeded 16 different varieties that will be ready to eat in only 6-8 weeks due to the powerful aeroponic technology of the Tower Garden system.
Do you know of others in your Tower Farm community who have used extra produce during this time to donate or cook meals with it for others?
We are currently working with a homeless shelter called Sunday Breakfast Mission in Philadelphia to grow fresh food using Tower Farms for their ingredients on Taco Tuesdays. As for our ‘Farm Amenity’ customers, we are blown away with how often they share how they cook for one another using food from their rooftop Tower Farm. Tower Farms have created community and a better way of living for everyone.
Lastly, how has it been in NYC at this time? We know that COVID-19 hit NYC particularly hard. How has COVID-19 affected you guys both personally and professionally during this time?
It's no news that NYC has really taken a hit from COVID-19. I recall a conversation on March 15 with a senior property management director at Waterline Square, where we operate our latest ‘Farm Amenity,’ regarding the virus and her deep concern for food distribution in the city. Many forget that Manhattan is an island. When grocery stores were being stormed and shelves were empty, she and others we know were really afraid about where food would come from. With our ‘Farm Amenity’ model using Tower Farms is the quickest, most modular solution for every resident to have freshly harvested food grown directly where they live.
We are both very thankful to say that COVID-19 has not impacted our personal health. We originally thought it was going to impact our business, but what we have found is that more people want to grow food now more than ever. We are here to make sure they are successful by providing resources and the right equipment to help them grow and meet their goals from the start.
Have a story you’d like to share? Reach out to us via our official Facebook page. Happy growing!
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