It's a natural thing for every human being to want: the ability to grow fresh, healthy food anywhere we call home, even if that's in the concrete jungle of New York City. That's where I've been spending the last couple of months as I build up my business to help people grow fresh and healthy food anywhere, even inside an apartment in Tribeca.
Yes, we may spend our days and nights plunking away at keyboards or talking into little plastic boxes but who doesn't yearn to eat the freshest food in the world? Food that's been grown by your own hands? This desire is multiplying. There is a shift in cities across America, and urban farming is something that's taking root.
Young men and women are graduating college with ambitions of going on to be farmers. Horticulture schools are filling up with young people wanting to farm. They want to be a part of the Farm to Table movement. To make matters better for future urban farmers, Quartz reports that most Americans could be sustained on local foods alone, except for the cities of LA and New York.
If you are thinking even for a second about growing food on your patio, rooftop, basement, restaurant or little plot between buildings, Henry is here to help. Henry, or Henry Gordon-Smith is an urban agriculture consultant for Blue Planet. While his passion is hydroponics, or growing food on water, Henry can help you decide what, where, how and what technology you should use to maintain and enhance your urban yield.
"I like to look at the whole spectrum of urban agriculture with my clients from soil-based to hydroponics and high tech vertical farms," Henry tells me. "Then, based on if their goals are yield, education, or job-training, our team recommends design, technology, and operations strategies."
Will it be cucumbers, strawberries and Swiss chard? Or potatoes, lettuce and carrots? Henry is here to help. I ran into Henry at the AlleyNYC, a co-working space in New York. He graciously lends contacts, makes introductions and shares best practices on what's happening in the city.
We know that Whole Foods in Brooklyn now operates a large (20,000 sq/ft hydroponics farm on its roof). And New Jersey's Aerofarms is about to get something real big.
Formally as part of Blue Planet a company that makes nano-bubble aerators to increase hydroponic crop yield, Henry works to grow urban farms so they can be a mainstay in New York, even if you don't use his company's equipment.
He's currently consulting a number of big deal projects for Sky Vegetables, an 8,000 sq/foot growing vertical farm in the city, for Coop Tech, a training rooftop greenhouse at 96 and 1st. And he's helping develop a shipping container food art project, hopefully one that will be replicated around schools in the region.
You can say that Henry's putting hydroponics on the map in New York City. Hydroponics or vertical farming, is a way to grow food and high value crops using water and nutrients alone - no soil. There are plenty of reasons for the planet as to why hydroponics could work as a great supplement to convention agriculture: using up to 95% less water, more vitamins, greater yield, no pesticides and the use of unconventional space are some benefits.
As for what's hot in hydroponics in New York City, Henry plugs three projects:
1. Harlem Grown at 134 and Lennox: "With a thriving soil-based farm and a hydroponic greenhouse surrounded by buildings on three sides, this urban farm is a one-of-kind demonstration," says Henry.
2. EdenWorks in Brooklyn, which is a data-based company working on making aquaponics feasible. Aquaponics is hydroponics with the addition of fish to provide nutrients in a closed-loop system.
3. New York Sunworks which is developing rooftop greenhouses for schools, and which plans to have 100 hydroponics food labs in the next 5 years around NYC. They've built 17.
If you are looking for inspiration, Henry also produces the Agritecture blog which helps people envision future hydroponics and vertical farms. He says: "It's both utopia and real world placed side by side. My hope is that it will inspire others to be bold but also act feasibly."
Get inside some of his inspiration by reading Dr. Dickson Despommier's The Vertical Farm if you want to learn more about the practice and economics of hydroponics, and be in touch with Henry if you want to start an urban farm in your city.
I love how Henry is creating both a business and a business climate for hydroponics and mother earth. He's a citizen of the world, who was born in Hong Kong, but who travels as a Canadian. A man of my own heart. He's also super friendly.
Connect with Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org and join the Association for Vertical Farming to scale your vision and connect with like-minded companies in the industry.