By standard definition, "local food" is that which is produced within 100 miles of where it's sold. BrightFarms wants you to forget that. The New York-based greenhouse company aims to shift our understanding of local-ness by bringing rooftop gardens to the place where consumers buy food: the supermarket.
Launched in January 2011, BrightFarms' vision is to convince grocery retailers to grow leafy greens, herbs, salad varieties, and vine crops on their vacant roofs. The company handles the design, financing, building and operation of the gardens, while supermarkets sign long-term contracts to buy whatever's grown.
As far as BrightFarms' growing philosophy, taste and nutritional value will take precedence over hardiness and preservability, says co-founder Benjamin Linsley. “Most of the tomatoes you get in the supermarket are grown in large industrial greenhouses,” Linsley told Edible Manhattan. Those breeds are grown tough to endure long trucking trips from farm to supermarket. The result is that consumers are left with a tomato that may "last a long time in your refrigerator, but doesn’t taste very good."
The company's sustainability mission goes beyond reducing shipping. BrightFarms' hydroponic gardens use ten times less water and take up twenty times less space than industrial agriculture. Heat is generated via an array of solar panels.
BrightFarms hopes to open three supermarket greenhouses in 2012. Having already completed several experimental projects — including a greenhouse at a Whole Foods in New Jersey and an educational urban farm on a ship in the Hudson — the company should be ready.
Photo: BrightFarms / Flickr