When I wrote my big TC1 on Bowery Farming late last year, there was a lot of talk of the company’s third commercial farming site in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Today the facility finally comes online after a big press unveiling. The New Jersey–based vertical farming startup says the facility, built on a former brownfield lot, is its most technologically advanced to date.
The commercial farm is Bowery’s third, including the initial location in Kearny, New Jersey, that I visited, as well as one in Nottingham, Maryland. Baby steps, but the company says it plans to double those three by next year. The company won’t offer official word on the farm, though real estate reports from the last few years put it at around 156,000 square feet. It’s a large site from the sound of it, though others have outlined details for even larger facilities.
There are some ongoing questions around the environmental impact of vertical farming, of course. There’s plenty of upside, including a far smaller footprint and decreased water use, though the efficacy of relying on LEDs instead of natural lighting is often cited by detractors. Bowery says its new farm will be powered by 100% renewable energy coupled with water capture and filtration designed to cycle runoff back into the system.
“If we’ve learned anything from the past two years it is that we are in a period of unprecedented disruption and uncertainty across our climate and geopolitical circumstances, which unfortunately is going to persist. We are also seeing firsthand that our global food system is inextricably tied to these dynamics,” founder and CEO Irving Fain said in a release. “At Bowery, wherever food is needed, we can grow it. We are addressing the challenges in our system by growing food smarter for more people in more places — and that work, securing food for our future, continues today with the opening of our Bethlehem Farm.”
The new farm is also set to bring 70 jobs to Bethlehem, which is located next door to Allentown and is an hour and a half drive from Philadelphia. The location is designed to serve a 200-mile radius, according to Bowery, courtesy of retailers like Whole Foods, Giant of Landover and Albertsons.