A new fashion in the agri-food field is born in the Big Apple: a DYI farm (official name, "vertical farm"), an interior garden that attracts investments of restaurateurs, store managers and property owners. Like the one in Smallhold, for example, entirely dedicated to mushrooms and created through the collaboration of restaurants and food shops. Or the Bowery Farming, which recently started selling its own vegetables to Whole Foods, which counts among its major investors celebrity chef – and Top Chef judge – Tom Colicchio, who defined the project "The new paradigm of agriculture". In his Downtown NYC restaurant, Temple Court, the chef uses Bowery's arugula for his wasabi. Furthermore, Farmshelf, a New York startup that deals with building small vertical gardens within restaurants and hotels. There's also Farm.One, with two locations: one within the Institute of Culinary Education and another, in TriBeCa at the award-winning Atera restaurant in Manhattan.
The operation therefore is simple: chefs and restaurateurs choose to create a garden right inside their restaurants, relying on specialized professionals, investing and in return getting natural, fresh and uber-local products all year round. A unique opportunity to raise the quality level of the offer even more, and also to inform and create greater awareness among customers. Of course, this is innovative agriculture, hydroponics to be exact, a technique of off the ground or soil-free cultivation, where the soil is replaced by an inert substrate, such as expanded clay, coconut fiber, rock wool or zeolite.
Able to produce up to 50 kilos of mushrooms per week – among the products currently most chosen by chefs – of many different varieties, from shiitake to pioppini. The cost to create a vertical vegetable garden? It's quite high: prices start from a minimum base of $3,500 for smaller farms, but the satisfaction for the most passionate chefs to put their specialties on the table is priceless.