Newark Hosts the World’s Largest Vertical Farm; Is This The Future of Urban City Development?

By Christopher J. Cavaiola

Newark, New Jersey is currently home to the world’s largest indoor vertical farm developed by AeroFarms.  This vertical farm comes at a cost of roughly $39 million and consists of a 69,000-square-foot facility (47,000 square feet of which is used for vertical farming), which also includes office and lab space.  The New Jersey Economic Development Authority awarded the project a $2.2 million grant under the Economic Redevelopment and Growth program and $6.5 million tax credit through the Grow New Jersey program.  AeroFarms broke ground on the project in the summer of 2015 and the farm opened in September 2016.  At full capacity, AeroFarms aims to generate 2 million pounds of fresh produce each year at the Newark facility, which is a yield of 75 times more crops per square foot compared to field farming.  AeroFarms customers include local grocery chains, schools and restaurants.

A vertical farm is a high-tech greenhouse that is stacked on top of itself, to create a multi-story growing space.  Single-story buildings can qualify as vertical farms as long as the space exceeds 30 feet in height and crops are grown that utilize this vertical space.  The purpose of a vertical farm is to maximize plant density enabling those in the built environment, or urban spaces, access to fresh vegetables year-round.  A vertical farm is preferable to a traditional greenhouse because greenhouses do not achieve the plant densities needed to supply food for city dwellers. 

Proponents of vertical farms contend that vertical farms within, or just outside, the city limits would free-up acres of land from traditional, soil-based agricultural practices, allowing traditional farmland to be returned to its ecological function of providing ecosystem services.  With increases in the global population and the number of people moving to urban centers, traditional farmers will soon run out of landmass to grow food.  As demonstrated by the Newark vertical farming facility, vertical farming is a viable technology and successful alternative to traditional farming.

Connell Foley can assist clients looking to convert or develop real estate for vertical farming.  If you have any questions about the issues discussed in this post please contact Connell Foley’s Environmental Law Group.