The farm-to-table concept has taken off across the country, but fresh, local produce can sometimes be difficult to procure in urban areas such as Manhattan. Enter Farm.One, a New York City-based hydroponic farm that grows hundreds of herbs, edible flowers and micro greens. To do this, Farm.One utilizes vertical farms, advanced hydroponics and LED lighting.
In April 2016, the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) planted its first onsite farm at Farm.One. The site is 100% free of pesticides and herbicides and, owing to their unique proprietary system, uses 95% less water than traditional gardens. The facility supplies herbs, micro greens and edible flowers for classes at ICE, and Farm.One supplies restaurants from the ICE location as well as a second, larger farm they built in Tribeca, under Atera Restaurant. In addition to sustainably grown produce, Farm.One offers classes and workshops on hydroponics for chefs and cooking enthusiasts.
Recently, Kathryn Gordon, an instructor in the Professional Pastry & Baking Arts program at ICE, interviewed Caleb Raff, the Plant Scientist in residence at Farm.One to find out more about Farm.One produce and who is using it.
Kathryn Gordon: Farm.One began in New York City, a city with several Michelin-starred restaurants. How will Farm.One be viable in other locations?
Caleb Raff: The farms are technology driven, with scale-able, replicable proprietary software; electric costs are low, as the lighting is LED. Labor is the highest cost, so replication is feasible in other cities such as Hong Kong, where labor is cheaper. Expansion can work also through partnership with larger agricultural companies in Paris or Copenhagen, or anywhere with schools like ICE.
KG: What does a plant scientist do at Farm.One?
CR: I’m in charge of general plant health, fixing unhealthy nutrient deficiency or pathogens. I also research and develop new products, order new seeds and test crops before we meet with chefs at restaurants and introduce new products.
KG: I’d like to develop some desserts that feature Farm.One ingredients, and would like to optimize the intensity of the flavors versus the price of the flowers and microgreens. Do you think a hot or cold infusion would be the best approach?
CR: Flavor is generally extracted from plants through flavonoids – not all plants have oils, but it is the most common method [by which] a plant transmits flavor. A lot of restaurants do use the flowers and micro greens more as garnishes; bartenders tend to be the most into infusions.
KG: I was thinking it could be most economical to using the strongest, most unusual flavors I have tasted at the farm in recipe R&D. How are the plants priced if a business wanted to order from Farm.One?
CR: There is a price tradeoff between different crops, such as petit basil, which only requires two weeks to harvest time versus a mature plant, which can grow for 10 weeks. Pricing is driven by the amount of care a plant requires, time from planting to maturity, and the size of the leaves dictated by the chefs (because hand trimming and selection is labor intensive). If someone is willing to order a lot of any one plant, we will try to grow it for that customer. The best sales tool it to get chefs to visit the farm.
Have a look at the following two recipes developed by Kathryn Gordon using Farm.One produce.