Vertical farms have been praised for their adaptability in dense spaces as well as low resource use. Another advantage is that they offer locally-grown produce to consumers that live miles away from traditional farmlands. In Jersey City, an innovative scheme is combining these different benefits of vertical farming by installing indoor farms at public housing communities.
The pilot program, called Healthy Greens JC, will install 10 aeroponic farms across the city and provide a total of 19,000 pounds of free greens to eligible city residents in its first year.
The vertical farms themselves will be provided by AeroFarms, which uses water-efficient technology to grow produce vertically without soil. Aerofarms has been operating a large vertical farm in nearby Newark, New Jersey since 2016 which churns out two million pounds of fresh greens annually.
The placement of vertical farms in public housing communities strategically improves access to fresh food for populations which need it most. Aerofarms CEO David Rosenberg said, “The partnership with JCHA specifically allows us to see how we can bridge that last mile to increase access to healthy food and work closely with the community on creating a greater connection with their food and how it is grown.” In addition to the 10 housing communities, vertical farms are also slated for construction in a City Hall annex, two senior centers, and a community center.
Jersey City is providing the funding for this fresh produce access plan. The city set aside $1 million for construction of the farms and three years’ worth of seeds. The Health and Human Services Department will also conduct free nutrition and health classes to help residents make the most of this new community resource.
The city will track the pilot program closely and, if all goes well, plans to scale it up in the near future.