Pennsylvania

Bethlehem Bowery is a unique farm

The “farmer” wore a lab coat. The gray floor was clean. Do you eat it? you could.

The scent of fresh vegetables and basil filled the air. Farmers packed their produce in clamshell containers at room temperature of about 38 degrees Celsius for shipping.

At Bowery Farming’s new South Bethlehem facility, workers grow, harvest, package and ship lettuce and other produce. Combining the benefits of local farms with technological advances, Bowery grows crops accurately in a controlled indoor environment, using no pesticides and 95% less water than traditional agriculture.

Bowery officials say they are reducing the time from harvest to table. About 90% of the lettuce sold in this country comes from California. According to a farmer’s organization Katie Seawell, Bowery’s Chief Commercial Officer. Seawell said these vegetables couldn’t be fresh for the 50 million people along the East Coast that Boiry plans to serve from the Bethlehem site.

“You can’t walk that supply chain,” she said.

Federal, state and local officials gathered and celebrated on May 26th. Grand opening of Bowery Farming.. The 156-000 sq ft factory, located on approximately 9 acres of Lee High Valley Industrial Complex VII, away from National Highway 412 and Interstate Highway 78, was launched in early April and is now fully operational. , We are shipping the product. The plan was announced in December 2020, Immediately after work starts On the farm.

Visitors saw the fully grown produce ready to be shipped to salad lovers locally and elsewhere.

Bowery is the first farm of its kind in the Lee High Valley, but one of many players in the fast-growing field. According to this year’s Associated Press article, at least 74 indoor farming companies were established worldwide in 2020. Come.

According to the company, indoor farms use less land and water while delivering higher yields. Bowery officials say it will also allow agricultural products to be closer to people’s homes all year round, increasing supply reliability and reducing transportation-related fuel consumption.

This type of agriculture also makes it possible to grow produce closer to where people live, increasing supply reliability and reducing transportation-related fuel consumption throughout the year.

Francesco Dijoya of Pennsylvania State University generally agreed with these claims. Di Gioia, generally speaking, such farms have higher production costs (including lighting and technology), but the production and higher efficiency associated with indoor farming can offset those costs. Said.

“The fact that this technology has improved over time and has been heavily invested by many companies seems to make things more competitive,” said DiGioia. Associate Professor of Vegetable Crop Science Someone who has studied vertical farming and has heard about Bowery. “But everything depends on the availability of electricity, which will cost a lot of money.”

Another benefit, according to Di Joia, is nutrition. In other words, delivering fresh ingredients to consumers in a short amount of time makes a difference. “Shelf life [of leafy greens] It’s not too long, “he said.

He added that the price of these leafy vegetables per container could affect consumers’ willingness to buy. A spot check for the Bowery price in a 4 ounce salad green container at Walmart was $ 2.98. Weiss’s supermarket listed 5 ounces of salad mix for $ 2.99.

Agricultural products from indoor farms are “not cheap, so they may not be affordable for everyone,” he said. “But I believe it may be more affordable in the future.”

Various institutions and companies, including NASA, have been farming indoors since at least the 1980s. November 2021 article by the space agency He said interest in agriculture grew from the need to train astronauts during long-term space exploration.It claims it built The country’s first vertical farming In the hypobaric chamber left over from the Mercury Space Capsule test.

The cost of lighting crops has made it difficult to commercialize the process. Indoor farmers haven’t been able to grow enough produce to make a profit, but lower LED costs over the past few years have allowed more companies to start indoors. Agriculture.

Bowery’s 42-year-old founder and CEO, Irving Fain, launched the company in 2015. To do so, it was necessary to utilize not only inexpensive LEDs but also innovations in robotics, computers, and storage of artificial intelligence to perform a large amount of processing. Of the data.

Fain said these were obstacles to growing the business. He said the current obstacles are to maintain “driving opportunities” and higher efficiency to expand the range of crops.

Bowery’s indoor vertical farming is:

Farmers pour seeds into drums and start an automated system that determines the number of flats to prepare and the number of seeds to include, based on the growth preferences of a particular crop.

Next is germination. During germination, the sown flats move into the chamber for several days, with each flat moving on different schedules. Farmers will be notified by the system when it is time to move the plant to the growing room. During the growing phase, the farm aims to regain water from the plants and regenerate almost all the water used for growth.

The automatic conveyor belt then removes the flat from the germination chamber. When the crop is ready to be harvested, the Bowery system will let you know that the crop can be harvested. This will move the tray from the growing room to the harvesting station, where the code will be scanned. From there, the crops are automatically harvested and packed for retailers.

Throughout the process, Bowery’s operating system uses a variety of sensors to monitor plant lighting, airflow, and water supply. The LEDs are tuned to mimic the spectrum of sunlight and give the plants time in the dark, as if they were growing outside. Bowery’s software knows where each type of crop is growing and can adjust the lighting at different times for each crop. You can also detect problems such as when the light is off longer than usual or when the crop appears to be late. In that case, the crop will be transplanted.

Bowery’s sophisticated system allows farmers to know which crops are shipped to which stores.

According to Seawell, the entire process takes about a month. This means that Bowery’s Bethlehem farm can harvest crops 12 times a year.

Bowery officials searched the country to measure public sentiment about the concept of agriculture, but said, “In Pennsylvania and Bethlehem, specifically, come with your arms outstretched.”We really want to make this happen.. ‘”

According to Seawell, the location of the retailer’s distribution base, potential customer base, and local workforce have made Bethlehem the perfect location for the facility.

“There was a vision of how Pennsylvania could help advance agriculture,” she said, a view shared by both the company and the state.

Governor Tom Wolfe, one of the Grand Opening speakers, said the state provided Bowery with a grant and tax credit of approximately $ 460,000, with a total investment of approximately $ 32 million. He called it a worthwhile deal.

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Bowery also has farms in Kearny, NJ, two of which are for research and development. The third is a commercial activity that serves grocery stores and e-commerce companies in the northeast. Another facility in Nottingham, Maryland, is powered by hydropower. The company also announced plans to expand to the suburbs of Atlanta and the Dallas / Fort Worth region.

You can contact the morning call journalist Anthony Salamone at 610-820-6694 or asalamone@mcall.com.

Background: Bowery Farming’s South Bethlehem facility can grow pesticide-free produce indoors 365 days a year, with a growth cycle of about one month, compared to the two to three months of traditional farms. It was finally built to provide enough agricultural products to 50 million people on the northeastern and mid-Atlantic coasts.

Job etc .: Privately owned Bowery has created about 70 local jobs, but authorities have refused to discuss wages and the number of positions they plan to fill with residents of the valley. The company has partnered with the Second Harvest Food Bank in Lee High Valley and northeastern Pennsylvania to donate fresh food.

Main statistics: The farm is powered by 100% renewable energy and is equipped with LED lighting and a custom water recovery system. Bowery states that it is the nation’s largest vertical farming company, selling to over 1,000 grocery stores, from large grocery chains to the Gerrity’s Valley Farm Market in Bethlehem.

Why Bowery? The New York-based company’s name comes from Manhattan’s historic Lower Manhattan district, CEO Irving Fain said at an event on May 26. Settled by the Dutch in 1654, Bowerij (originally the old Dutch spelling bouwerij) played a wonderful role in connecting farmland to the center of the city throughout the 17th century.

Source: Bowery Farming

Bethlehem Bowery is a unique farm

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