Controlled-environment agriculture company Bowery is set to open its largest indoor farm to date. The new facility will be located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, turning a non-arable industrial site into a farm that will grow leafy greens throughout the year.
A spokesperson for Bowery said that the company does not disclose actual square footage of its farms, but that it would be able to serve nearly 50 million people within a 200-mile radius.
The Bethlehem facility joins Bowery’s roster of farms located in Kearny New Jersey and Nottingham, Maryland. All farms use the hydroponic method for growing. Plants are set in vertically stacked trays and fed a nutrient-enriched water solution that gets recirculated continuously. On the software side, Bowery has a proprietary system, BoweryOS, that monitors plant growth from seed.
Bowery says its Bethlehem facility will be its “most technologically advanced commercial farm yet.” Importantly, it will leverage billions of data points collected from Bowery farms over the last five years to boost this new farms “intelligence” when monitoring plant growth and health.
Other advances include energy-saving LED lighting, more automation of the growing process through BoweryOS, and some innovations in water circulation. The latter will come in the form of what Bowery calls “a comprehensive water transpiration system.” Transpiration is the release of water from plant leaves; Bowery’s system will capture and re-use this water, with the goal of reclaiming “nearly all” of the water used in the growing process.
For the new facility, Bowery is working with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and the Governor’s Action Team, both through a Pennsylvania First grant. The farm is expected to create year-round jobs for the area’s farming community.
The news caps off what’s been a big year for Bowery in terms of company growth. Since January 2020, the company expanded its retail presence from 100 brick-and-mortar stores to 680, and said it has seen more than 600 percent growth in stores and doubled its e-commerce presence.
According to Bowery’s spokesperson, Covid was definitely “an accelerator” for some of this growth, though some of that growth is also due to demand for more local, traceable food grown without pesticides — a trend that predates the pandemic. The new farm will help the company further meet this demand, along with advancing the technology component of the vertical farming sector.