The Latest Farm-to-Table Trend

October 15, 2012 | By | Comments (6)
Algeria Fresh vertical farm

Photograph by Erik Cutter

By Heather Hansman

Large-scale ag. Family-owned farms. Urban community gardens. Now, food is going even more hyperlocal: welcome to the vertical farm.

This summer, Erik Cutter opened Alegria Fresh, the west coast’s first commercial vertical farm, because he wanted to give his community a small-scale way to get large amounts of greens.

Alegria Fresh sits on a quarter acre in Laguna Canyon, and uses 170 Verti-Gro towers, which stack plants to help them irrigate each other using minimal water and a soil-like blend of materials*. On the tiny plot he grows 10,000 plants: enough kale, chard, and salad greens to feed the surrounding towns for weeks.

Right now, the farm operates as a CSA, so you can get greens delivered if you’re a Laguna local, but Cutter says he plans to scale up and build more vertical farms in Southern California. He says his model is a sustainable, low-resource alternative to large-scale agriculture, and to keep people in the west connected to their food, especially in the face of drought and climate change.

“We’re running out of farmland in California,” he says.

* Reflects changes to our earlier blog post, which said that the farm uses minimal soil. It uses none – see comment below for deeper explanation of how the veggies are grown. 

COMMENTS

  1. Sapna

    This is awesome! No more excuses like – “If only I had a yard!”

    November 27, 2012 at 8:26 pm
  2. Centsational Girl » Blog Archive » Friday Finds

    [...] A fascinating farm-to-table trend. [...]

    November 9, 2012 at 9:15 pm
  3. Erik

    We appreciate your interest in what we are doing at Alegria Farm and we wanted to clarify some of the information in this blog.

    To clarify, we use no soil. The process is hydroponic which is soil-less. Horticulturists consider soil to be organic material complete with minerals and microorganisms. In hydroponics we do not use soil, instead we use different media, all of which are considered inert. At Alegria Farm, we use coir, a sustainable media composed of ground up coconut husks. To this media, we add our specialized hydroponic nutrients (derived from all organic sources and processed to dissolve easily in water) in a manner that perfectly suits the plants we grow. Thus our plants are higher in nutrition, stronger and more pest resistant, allowing us to forgo the use of all toxic pesticides.

    We do not consider ourself a CSA in the traditional sense – in which local volunteers operate the farm and share in the produce. We are a for profit-business whose mission is to educate locals on the superior nutritional value found in our greens, which are sold as produce bouquets direct to consumer on a subscription basis. We are developing this concept to create jobs for youth. In essence, we have developed a produce route instead of a paper route offering medicinal bouquets of greens and herbs picked less than an hour before delivery.

    We are not trying to replace large scale agriculture, as we do not consider them the enemy. We are offering a superior nutritional alternative in the more densely packed urban environment that has the proven ability to prevent, slow and even reverse many diseases. We understand our medicinal bouquets are not for everyone because many people do not share our belief that the greens we grow can have this great an effect on an individual’s health. Unfortunately, many people are convinced that food is only healthy if it comes in a bag or a sealed package. Our foremost priority is to educate and create access to potent greens and herbs using a decentralized model of hundreds of small hydroponic vertical farms within densely populated urban areas. We believe this is the best way to provide food security and bolster energy independence.

    To clarify, we are not running out of farmland in California. We are running out of soil that contains the right balance of life forces to sustain healthy production of produce without the need for heavy animal-based fertilizers and pesticides. Unfortunately man has spent the last 200 years destroying the soil that sustains healthy plants, so it is soil (and water) that we are running short of, not farmland.

    October 20, 2012 at 12:28 pm
  4. Jessica

    We appreciate your interest in what we are doing at Alegria Farm and we wanted to clarify some of the information in this blog.

    To clarify, we use no soil. The process is hydroponic which is soil-less. Horticulturists consider soil to be organic material complete with minerals and microorganisms. In hydroponics we do not use soil, instead we use different media, all of which are considered inert. At Alegria Farm, we use coir, a sustainable media composed of ground up coconut husks. To this media, we add our specialized hydroponic nutrients (derived from all organic sources and processed to dissolve easily in water) in a manner that perfectly suits the plants we grow. Thus our plants are higher in nutrition, stronger and more pest resistant, allowing us to forgo the use of all toxic pesticides.

    We do not consider ourself a CSA in the traditional sense – in which local volunteers operate the farm and share in the produce. We are a for profit-business whose mission is to educate locals on the superior nutritional value found in our greens, which are sold as produce bouquets direct to consumer on a subscription basis. We are developing this concept to create jobs for youth. In essence, we have developed a produce route instead of a paper route offering medicinal bouquets of greens and herbs picked less than an hour before delivery.

    We are not trying to replace large scale agriculture, as we do not consider them the enemy. We are offering a superior nutritional alternative in the more densely packed urban environment that has the proven ability to prevent, slow and even reverse many diseases. We understand our medicinal bouquets are not for everyone because many people do not share our belief that the greens we grow can have this great an effect on an individual’s health. Unfortunately, many people are convinced that food is only healthy if it comes in a bag or a sealed package. Our foremost priority is to educate and create access to potent greens and herbs using a decentralized model of hundreds of small hydroponic vertical farms within densely populated urban areas. We believe this is the best way to provide food security and bolster energy independence.

    To clarify, we are not running out of farmland in California. We are running out of soil that contains the right balance of life forces to sustain healthy production of produce without the need for heavy animal-based fertilizers and pesticides. Unfortunately man has spent the last 200 years destroying the soil that sustains healthy plants, so it is soil (and water) that we are running short of, not farmland.

    October 20, 2012 at 12:27 pm
  5. Jessica

    Verti-Gro makes a home unit that is far superior to the Tower Garden in resource and cost efficiency, ease of use and production. Please see info at http://www.alegriafresh.com/homegarden.html

    October 19, 2012 at 11:00 am
  6. Kathy Gisler

    Please research the Tower Garden by Juice Plus. It is a hydroponic / aeroponic system for the home gardener along with commercial gardening applications. The self contained water is recycled. All components are food grade plastic. Vegetables and fruits grow like crazy!!!!

    October 17, 2012 at 5:58 am

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