Upward Farms, the startup that combines aquaculture and fish farming with indoor agriculture for microgreens, just announced plans to build the world's largest vertical farm.
The 250,000 square-foot facility, located in Pennsylvania, will aim to bring microgreens and striped bass to consumers throughout the Northeast, according to a company statement.
By combining two revenue streams, Upward Farms likely is looking to defray some of the concerns about costs associated with most vertical farms. The knock against these startups has always been about the cost of inputs relative to the price of outputs -- especially competing against low-cost existing sources of agricultural production.
However, the cost of those low-cost fruits and vegetables has been rising steadily thanks to pressures from climate change, labor shortages, and the high price of fuels eating into margins.
In the Upward Farms system, waste from fish is turned into fertilizer for the company's leafy greens, creating a more circular production system. The greens are all USDA Certified Organic and non-GMO.
The Brooklyn-based company already sells its greens at Whole Foods Markets around New York and its fish is feeding the hipsters frequenting Greenpoint Fish and Lobster.
For Upward, the decision to locate a massive new farm in Pennsylvania brings a new growing facility that reduces land and water use by 95% and is at least twice as large as the farms operated by competitors like Bowery Farming and others.
The news comes as the US is awash in a flood of new vertical farm construction. Companies like Plenty, Bowery Farming, Upward Farms and others have raised half a billion dollars or more to build out their urban farmlands and show no sign of slowing down.
As Upward noted in a statement, 90 percent of the nation's leafy greens are grown on the West Coast and distributed around the country while 90 percent of the nation's seafood is imported.
In both instances, the food supply is beset by climate changes and contamination risks that come from industrial farming.
Upward estimates that its facility will lead to at least 500 new temporary and permanent jobs, conserve 100 million gallons of water, more than 120 acres of land annually and cut 1.7 million miles of shipping traveled for food distribution. “Farming is one of the sectors that’s both highly exposed to the perils of climate change and one of its key drivers,” said Jason Green, CEO & Cofounder of Upward Farms, in a statement. “Solutions for food production that are good for people and the planet are sorely needed. With the construction of the world’s largest vertical farm — our third aquaponic vertical farm overall — we’re demonstrating the power of nature and nurture.”