When Matt LaRosa joined Edenworks in early 2013, he was a college freshman who still hadn’t even picked a major. But when he overheard CEO Jason Green at a pitch competition explain his plan to transform industrial buildings into high-tech farms, he immediately abandoned his own pitch and pitched himself to Green instead. The duo, along with cofounder Ben Silverman, went on to create the self-regulating aquaponic system that now supplies microgreens and fish to Brooklyn and landed them on this year’s 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs list.
The Edenworks HQ is not exactly where one would expect to find fresh produce and fish. Located in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn, the company sits atop a metalworking shop belonging to a relative of Green. Their office looks like a typical young startup: all eleven employees crowded in one room with computer screens occupying almost every surface. But upstairs across a narrow walkway is where the magic really happens: an 800 square foot greenhouse, custom built by LaRosa, housing fish tanks, vertically stacked panels of microgreens, and a sanitary packaging unit. Though admittedly cramped, the company says their size has made the team significantly more lithe than larger industrial agriculture operations.
“Being a startup, you have a ton of room to break things and iterate very quickly,” LaRosa told Forbes. “We’re so nimble with changing our prototypes… we have something different than anywhere else in the entire world.”
Currently, about 95% of leafy greens consumed in the US are grown in the desert regions of California and Arizona. Most of these products are grown for mass production and durability in transport, rarely for quality or sustainability. Urban farms have cropped up as way to provide growing metropolises with fresher produce in a way that is better for the environment.
The Edenworks model differentiates itself from other urban farms in that it is a complete, aquaponic ecosystem. Waste from the tilapia fish is used as a natural and potent fertilizer for the microgreens planted on vertically stacked power racks. They have no need for synthetic fertilizers or pesticides that can diminish the nutritional quality of produce.
“The water table is falling every year, there’s a huge amount of money invested in pumping water out of the ground and irrigating, and inefficiency in the supply chain where a lot of product gets wasted or left in the field,” explained Green, a former bio-engineer and Howard Hughes research fellow. “We eliminate all of that waste.”
More Info: www.forbes.com