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.