We ordinarily think of farms as being large green pastures way out in the countryside, where acres of crops are grown and harvested. But these days, farming is becoming a more flexible concept that includes unconventional locations and methods. If you are a restaurant, or you eat in restaurants, vegetables don’t have to come from a rural farm, miles away; the “farms” can come to you.
Hydroponics (growing plants without soil) makes this possible. With hydroponics, plants are grown in water that is infused with nutrients, and it’s usually done indoors without the need for acres of land. So, it’s possible to have farms right in the city, or even in a restaurant! One of the key benefits is freshness—there are minimal (or even no) transport times from the farm to the table. Here are some innovative examples.
Farm.One, an indoor hydroponic farm, is located in downtown New York City. They call themselves the “NYC Farm for Chefs” and provide over 500 types of herbs, microgreens, and edible flowers to fine restaurants like Atera, Daniel, Mission Chinese Food, and L’Appart. They specialize in the rare and exotic, and offer same-day delivery; it’s a 30 minute or less bike ride to 90% of Manhattan restaurants. Because they are local, they can cut and harvest in the morning and it can be on a plate that same day. That is fresh!
farms in restaurants
In addition, restaurants are also getting in on the action. The New York City restaurant Bell Book & Candle has its own aeroponic rooftop garden, meaning that instead of being in water, plants are misted with nutrient solution. The rooftop garden supplies chefs with vegetables and herbs. Fun fact: because it is several flights of stairs up, the veggies are usually delivered to the kitchen using a pulley system.
Another restaurant in Boston called Cultivar has a hydroponic garden in a 40-foot shipping container that sits on its patio. This novel idea comes from Freight Farms, which sells the hydroponic shipping container farming systems they call “Leafy Green Machines.” The hydroponic garden supplies produce for the kitchen.
Finally, Farmshelf is a company that sells automated mobile hydroponic growing units that can be installed in a cafeteria or food hall. For example, there are Farmshelf units in Grand Central Station in New York City, in the Great Northern Food Hall. These units grow herbs and greens served by one of the restaurants in the food hall, Meyers Bageri.
No longer does it have to take days to transport vegetables from the farm. Hydroponic farms and gardens can bring the farm to you in cool and interesting ways!