Business The Bite

Is organic food passé? New food producer says 'post organic' is the future.

Bowery, a New Jersey farm that's championing 'post organic,' grows plants indoors in vertical rows without pesticides. 

A worker labors at a romaine lettuce farm outside San Luis, Arizona.
Eric Thayer/Reuters/File | Caption

A newly launched modern farming company, Bowery, is growing what they call the world’s first “post-organic” produce. Their concept breaks from traditional agricultural practices by growing plants indoors in vertical rows without any pesticides. With the help of proprietary technology, Bowery can closely monitor the growth of their crops and meticulously manage the resources needed. More than 80 types of crops are currently being grown at the company’s farm in Kearny, New Jersey, and they are selling several types of greens and herbs in stores in the New York region.

The idea for the company spawned when co-founder and CEO Irving Fain discovered a promising trend in LED lighting cost and efficiency that could improve indoor farming. “The pricing of LED lights dropped dramatically a little over 5 years ago,” Fain says. “We’ve also seen the efficiency more than double. What makes this even more exciting is that research suggests that this trend will continue. This means that not only are LED’s a viable solution for indoor farming today, but this solution continues to scale out in the future.”

“While traditional farming methods waste resources and endanger our future food supply, advancements in indoor farming make it possible to address a wide range of agricultural issues,” Fain adds. He teamed up with co-founders David Golden and Brian Falther to start Bowery.

“Agriculture consumes 70 percent of available water globally, and we use over 700 million pounds of pesticides each year in the United States alone,” Fain says. “Bowery is working to change that.” As the population grows, Fain and his team believe their company can provide more efficient food to help meet increasing demands around the world. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reports that food production will need to increase by 70 percent to feed an additional 2.3 billion people by 2050.

Bowery’s model begins with non-GMO seeds that are planted in vertical rows in an indoor growing environment to optimize space and eliminate the need for soil. According to the company, Bowery’s system is more than 100 times more productive on the same footprint of land. FarmOS, a technology system built by the Bowery team, allows crops to grow year-round, at a faster rate, and using 95-percent less water than traditional agriculture. FarmOS creates ideal conditions using automation, LED lighting that mimics the sun, and a 24-hour monitoring to ensure a reliable yield without wasting resources.

Fain calls these “post-organic” crops the next evolution of produce. Unlike organic products that might utilize organic pest management products, Bowery crops are grown without using any pesticides at all.

Another part of Bowery’s process is growing the produce close to the point of consumption. Their farm in Kearny currently distributes to Foragers Market locations in New York City, with plans to expand into select Whole Foods in the tri-state area. Bowery products are also used at Tom Colicchio’s restaurants, Craft and Fowler & Wells in New York City. This proximity ensures that produce will reach stores and restaurants within one day of being picked, when it is at the height of freshness and flavor. The company has plans for future farms following the same model.

Bowery’s packaged greens start at US$3.49. “As we scale, we plan to drive down our costs and deliver the highest quality produce at a price that makes it even more accessible to all,” Fain says. The products available now include kale mix, baby kale, basil, arugula, butterhead lettuce, and mixed greens. Additional items will be offered soon.

Bowery has been in the works for more than two years now, but their official launch on February 23, 2017, marks their formal introduction to consumers. “We’re very proud of the work we’ve done and are excited for consumers to learn more about what Bowery is doing to address some of the complex issues in agriculture,” Fain says.

This story originally appeared on Food Tank.