Tag Archives: The Land

Local Tower Garden Farmer Produces Aeroponic Food for Disney, Emeril’s, and other Fine Orlando Restaurants

Our mission at Future Growing® is to inspire healthy and sustainable living around the world, by empowering people with the technology and training to do so. We have been on this journey for almost a decade, with over 100 successful projects across North America.

The GreenHouse

Katherine Grandey, owner and operator of The GreenHouse. (Click photo to enlarge)

The local, grass roots urban food movement has given us the opportunity to meet some truly extraordinary people along the way, and the urban farmer we’ve featured this week is no exception. She is not only a first-class producer of premium produce, but has been instrumental in transforming the quality and standards for the locally grown food market in Central Florida.

I met Katherine Grandey, co-founder and owner of “The GreenHouse”, in Orlando, Fla., three years ago. Even though she was a highly-educated professional with a career and a young family, she wanted to be more engaged with her family, live a healthier life, and run her own company.

With that vision in mind, Katherine developed three main goals for her business:

  1. Produce healthy, safe food for her family.
  2. Provide local, healthy, chemical-free, low-carbon footprint food to the Orlando-area community.
  3. Work a moderate amount of hours and have time to raise her children.

To meet these goals, Katherine created a business plan with three main objectives:

  1. Produce food that is “beyond organic”, meaning that the food is more nutritious, has a smaller carbon footprint, and uses far less water.
  2. Start off with a 100-tower Tower Garden® farm in an affordable 48′ x 48′ greenhouse and office.
  3. Utilize Future Growing® patented vertical aeroponic technology to grow a multitude of produce in very little space to produce the highest quality local food available in Central Florida.

After developing her successful business more than two years ago, I recently had a chance to catch up with Katherine on the success of her Tower Garden® farm. Here is what she had to say:

Katherine, I am so proud of the work you are doing! You are obviously very busy. Who are your current clients?

Several high-end restaurants at the Walt Disney World resorts, along with Emeril’s Orlando, Ritz Carlton, Marriott World Center, Hilton, and several others.

Apopka 2 Apopka 3.jpg Ritz
Tower Gardens

Tower Gardens® (Click photo to enlarge)

These are big accounts! How did you land them…and keep them buying from you year round?

It is a well known fact that food grown in Florida has heavy pesticide residues. This is a natural side effect of farming in a state that has tremendous insect and disease pressures. The emerging local food movement in “the Sunshine State”, combined with the state’s looming water crisis, has created a boom of opportunity for farmers like me.

The restaurants we sell to demand the highest quality local, healthy, pesticide-free food. They also need seasonal consistency, which is something that has not been possible for outdoor farms. The Future Growing® Tower Gardens® allow us to have total control over the growth of the plant. The towers are so predictable and grow plants so consistently, that we can plan our seeding, transplanting and harvest four to six weeks in advance and be able to count on those numbers.

Petite leafy green mix, one week after transplant

Petite leafy green mix, one week after transplanting. (Click photo to enlarge)


Micro greens

Micro greens. (Click photo to enlarge)

We also have incredibly small losses, and the consistency of growing allows us to be able to deliver the same quantities weekly to our restaurants, making us a lot more reliable than “traditional” farms.

Because Orlando hosts large, international conventions, we can even accommodate special events and one-time orders, if we know far enough in advance.

What crops does The GreenHouse specialize in?

Petite leafy greens, lettuces, herbs and micro greens. A few of our micro greens include arugula, green sorrel, Swiss chard, and Tuscan kale.

Baby arugula

Baby arugula. (Click photo to enlarge)

What are some of the ways you have tried to sell produce, and which way is the most profitable?

Chives

Chives. (Click photo to enlarge)

We sell our produce “live”, with the roots attached. Living food grown in the aeroponic Tower Gardens produce the freshest, most flavorful aroma you can imagine, so the chefs really love it!

Petite sizes seem to be in demand with these clients, and I can turn these crops around in just 15 days with aeroponics! We sell and deliver directly to restaurants, which we find to be the most profitable. We also sell some plants through local produce distributors.

Florida has some extreme growing conditions that can bring in the bugs and diseases. How do you combat that?

The GreenHouse

North side of The GreenHouse. (Click photo to enlarge)

Our locally manufactured greenhouse from Imperial Builders and Supply is designed specifically for the harsh Florida climate. We have insect screens to keep the “bad” bugs out, evaporative cooling pads to keep us cool in the summer, and special light-diffusing plastic to keep the intense sun away from our crops.

Growing our food vertically keeps the plants up off the ground and allows for plentiful air circulation, which deters most pests and diseases. We use only organic sprays or beneficial insects for the few pest challenges we encounter at specific times of the year.

Releasing beneficial insects into the greenhouse

Releasing beneficial insects into the greenhouse.
(Click photo to enlarge)

Katherine, based on the information you just provided, I calculate that you can produce 135,000 plants in this small area on an annual basis. That is a tremendous turnover. I know you like to spend a lot of time at home with your family, so how many employees do you have?

Not too many, besides myself. We have one full-time manager, who oversees order fulfillment, seed planting, crop transplanting, and the cleaning and general greenhouse upkeep. We have a second full-time employee who works closely with the manager to fulfill the aforementioned jobs. We have an additional one to two part-time workers who help transplant, harvest, and maintain the greenhouse. We also work with a variety of community volunteers and college interns who help keep labor costs low, but gain education and experience in return.

Apopka 12

The GreenHouse volunteers hard at work!
(Click photo to enlarge)

Katherine, besides meeting your business goals, what have you enjoyed most about your work?

I love watching the expression on the chefs’ faces every time I walk in with a delivery! “Katherine is here!” they say, since they can smell the living food as soon as I walk in the door!

I am also someone who tries to live a green lifestyle. With our cool greenhouse and vertical aeroponic technology, we have been able to show people that there is a solution to the environmental challenges we face in Florida. I can grow an enormous amount of plants vertically in my small greenhouse with as little as five percent of the water as the outdoor farmers. I don’t use contaminated agriculture water, herbicides, or chemicals. My food is nutrient-dense, clean, and free of harmful pathogens. People just love it! They have come to understand what we are about and stand for, and that has given us a loyal following.

To learn more about Katherine and The GreenHouse, please click here.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC

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New York City’s Most Successful and Longest-Running Hydroponic Rooftop Farm Now in its Fourth Year

Tim Blank summer 2013 visit to the famous Bell, Book & Candle

Future Growing founder Tim Blank’s summer 2013 visit to the famous Bell Book and Candle rooftop Tower Garden® farm. (Click photo to enlarge)

I am pleased to announce that New York City’s most successful and longest-running roof-to-table hydroponic rooftop farm is now in its fourth year of producing chemical-free, highly flavorful fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Chef John Mooney and partner Mick O’Sullivan feed an 80-seat restaurant with their vertical aeroponic Tower Garden® farm, which is located six stories high on the roof of a 100-year-old tenement building that was once home to only the local pigeons.

Learn more in the press release below about these innovative pioneers in the restaurant industry, and how they are changing the way local food is sourced and grown.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC

BB&C Aeroponic Gardening Release Final


Bell-Book-and-Candle
Bell Book & Candle Restaurant Raises Urban Gardening to New Heights Using NYC’s First Vertical Aeroponic Tower Garden®

July 2013, New York, NY–Chef John Mooney’s reputation for introducing forward-thinking culinary concepts throughout his career in the US and abroad precedes him. It is no different at Bell Book & Candle (BB&C) restaurant, where he and partner Mick O’Sullivan created New York’s first rooftop vertical aeroponic Tower Garden®, dubbed the “Garden of Earthly Delights”. They set the bar for NYC’s urban gardening scene and took it to new heights with the special Future Growing LLC vertical Aeroponic Tower Garden® system. Now in its 4th year in existence, they have harvested tons of produce from the rooftop space ranging from heirloom tomatoes to exotic red okra, and earned the Sustainability Award from Star Chefs for 2011. The system has grown to now consist of 60 vertical towers generating bountiful rewards, other than the obvious, of providing fresh food for Chef Mooney that are used in both food and beverage menu items.

Strawberry Tower Gardens

Summer 2013: Fresh strawberries are used to garnish desserts and Chef John Mooney’s summer garden salad. (Click photo to enlarge)

Partner Mick O’Sullivan stated, “When you’re talking about real estate in Manhattan or any large city, there’s only one direction you can go and that is up. Because space is at a premium, the same philosophy applies to gardening in the city. Our self-contained, automatic-watering vertical aeroponic Tower Garden® system provides multiple benefits for us, our customers and community.” Those benefits include:

    • Producing fresh, local organic, sustainable product with wellness benefits for customers;

      Onion chives

      Tower of onion chives, summer 2013. (Click photo to enlarge)

  • Cost efficiency -low production/ maintenance costs, and the end product is directly available for use;
  • Heating and cooling benefits to the building and environment by harnessing and absorbing heat;
  • Significantly more sustainable than conventional agriculture. Using dead rooftop space, 90% less land and up to 95% less water;
  • Better space management than other urban gardens by using vertical height;
  • No soil needed, roots are concealed and not exposed to pollutants and pests, and organic pest-control (good bugs eat bad bugs);
  • Efficient timed nutrient delivery, all natural with no chemicals; and
  • Plants grow in less time than those grown in soil.

    Lettuce

    Heirloom lettuce harvest, summer 2013. (Click photo to enlarge)

Partners John and Mick are about to bring the system to their new Washington, DC restaurant venture, but with one significant difference: In DC, they will be using a state of the art greenhouse with an energy efficient ventilation system that works with nature, making it truly “controlled environment agriculture”.
In addition, BB&C’s gardening endeavor has connected them with their local community in several ways. For the past three years, they have hosted the first grade class from Greenwich Village’s PS 41 to help plant the lettuce in the beginning of each growing season and to learn about gardening. Chef Mooney also holds sustainability talks at Riverdale Community School for the 4th, 5th and 6th grades. Every summer, BB&C takes on an intern from various urban agricultural programs around the city.

4 years of NO chemicals. Benefical insects are released onto the farm to  manage harmful pests.

4 years of NO chemicals. Benefical insects are released onto the farm to manage harmful pests. (Click photo to enlarge)

Their use of aeroponic gardening came about from a fortuitous meeting at a farmer’s market in Orlando, Florida in 2008 with horticulturist and research scientist Tim Blank, founder & CEO of Future Growing, who introduced Mooney & O’Sullivan to the vertical system and a brand new 3-story certified green rooftop, the first of its kind in the world. Tim Blank said, “It was clear to me right away these guys ‘got it’ and saw the extraordinary potential for their restaurant venture. Chef Mooney had already had experience with traditional gardening. When Mick and John saw the ease of use in a small space, the high production rates we were getting from the technology, and then tasted the food, they were simply blown away and asked, “How soon can we do this at our restaurants? This will be a huge hit with the customers!”

Heirloom melons

Over 100 heirloom melons were harvested in the summer of 2013. (Click photo to enlarge)

In addition to being able to grow substantial amounts food vertically in a limited space, Mick and John say they love the versatility of the system. They can grow tomatoes one week, and bibb lettuce the next.

Additionally, when Hurricane Sandy came through last summer, all 60 towers were easily carried indoors. After the storm passed, they carried them back outside and were up and growing in minutes. Any standard hydroponic system would have blown away, damaging the nearby buildings and destroying the capital investment made for the restaurant.

Cucumbers

Over 1,000 cucumbers are harvested monthly!. (Click photo to enlarge)

Efforts like this emphasize Chef John & Mick’s dedication to serving the freshest food possible. “The food program at BB&C revolves around meeting consumer needs with local, organic, sustainable, and overall responsible procurement. The menu cycles are seasonal and heavily influenced on production from the aeroponic rooftop tower garden,” says Chef John Mooney. “We find inspiration in the various regions of America and focus on the contemporary aspect and eclecticism of our country’s melting pot. Our food strives for originality and individualism.”

Heirloom okra

Heirloom okra is used for Bell Book & Candle’s seasonal menu. (Click photo to enlarge)

The aeroponically-grown fresh vegetables and herbs are incorporated into dishes that change seasonally, including: Zucchini blossoms stuffed with goat cheese and wild mushrooms, with romesco sauce; house-made Burrata with wilted cherry tomatoes and rooftop basil; rooftop mixed greens; crisp pork belly and rooftop arugula with cherries, shaved fennel, and sweet onion; and grilled and roasted seasonal vegetables.

Cocktails include: BB&C Rooftop Mint Mojito with rum, rooftop mint, limes, agave, and soda; Dill With It with huckleberry vodka, strawberry, cucumber, lemon, dill, vanilla, and cava; and City Sage, buffalo trace bourbon, aperol, lime, honey, sage.

 

About Bell Book & Candle:

Heirloom tomatoes

BB&C partner Mick O’Sullivan tends to his favorite crop, the heirloom tomatoes! (Click photo to enlarge)

Bell Book & Candle is a West Village restaurant and bar, opened in 2010 by partners Chef John Mooney and Mick O’Sullivan in New York City. Their mission at BB&C revolves around meeting consumer needs with local, organic, sustainable and overall responsible procurement of the food on their menu. They find inspiration in the various regions of America, and focus on the contemporary aspect and eclecticism of our country’s melting pot. Chef John has worked at notable restaurants globally including Red Sage, RAKU, The Mansion at Turtle Creek, Michael Jordan’s The Steakhouse, Heartbeat, and The Saddle Room in Ireland. In 2004, John was named one of the “Best Hotel Chefs” in the USA by the James Beard Foundation for his work at Heartbeat and in 2011, BB&C earned the Sustainability Award from Star Chefs for the aeroponic garden. www.bbandcnyc.com.

About Future Growing:

For the past 8 years, Future Growing® LLC has been the world leader in vertical aeroponic food farms utilizing patented Tower Garden® technology. With over 100 successful projects across North America, Future Growing® leads the way in the local food growing movement, which has become a permanent mainstream trend in the United States. The Future Growing® team, which is comprised of professional growers, horticulturists, and aeroponic experts, is led by founder and CEO Tim Blank, a hydroponics expert, global speaker, and 12-year veteran with the Walt Disney World Company. The primary business of Future Growing is not just selling a product, but more importantly creating successful urban farms, one farmer at a time. www.futuregrowing.com.

California restaurants lead the local food movement

Some say that California restaurants lead the local food movement. My recent trip to California provided several opportunities to enjoy the local cuisine and I would have to agree: California sure seems to be in the running! You can hardly turn a corner in southern California without seeing a local eatery saying how they use local, fresh produce.

Montecito 14And we were not disappointed. The food and service was simply an experience to brag about and left us wanting to return with friends and family. The freshness of the food and the artistic attention to detail — including edible flowers as garnishes — was simply extraordinary!

Several restaurants in California have now taken local food a step further by growing their food in vertical aeroponic Tower Garden® farms. The pesticide-free aeroponic produce is harvested live with the roots intact, walked inside the kitchen, and is literally no more than 30 to 60 minutes old, bursting with flavor when served.

Wine CaskMy last meal of the trip was at the Wine Cask in Santa Barbara, and it was such an incredible experience! If you are a foodie like myself, then the Wine Cask should be on your list of places to eat! The Kale Salad was comprised of almost 100% Tower Garden ingredients, with an explosion of flavor at the first bite. You have to experience it yourself, to truly appreciate how good food can actually be. The best part is, there are no nasty pesticide residues on any of this restaurant’s food; just great raw food! 

FoodAndHomeSBcover

Waiting to be seated, I noticed a copy of the local Santa Barbara Food and Home magazine and decided to check it out.

To my enjoyment and surprise, there was a story on how one of our commercial Tower Garden® farms fuels restaurants like the Wine Cask. Below is a copy of that story. 

Stay tuned to learn more about how we are positively impacting the planet and the local food movement – one successful business at a time.

Link to Food and Home Santa Barbara http://www.food-home.com/

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC

Food And Home Santa Barbara article

Food And Home Santa Barbara article. (Click to read)

Integrated Pest Management

This week, I’m excited to share some of the secret tips used by our professional growers for successful organic pest control.

Ladybugs

Ladybugs. (Click photo to enlarge)

For those of you who are lucky enough to call Central Florida your home like myself, you know that this part of the country can be a growing paradise — and during some seasons, an insect nightmare. Although Florida has an incredible climate, the high nighttime temperatures and humidity in the hot season create the perfect home for almost every vegetable pest imaginable.

Twenty years ago, I began my tenure at Walt Disney World Company at The Land at EPCOT Center. The Land is a two-acre, protected growing biome, where we grew over 100 food crops from around the world using almost hydroponics technique imaginable. Because we grew such a diversity of crops year-round at this facility in Florida, pests and diseases could become a huge problem almost overnight! At The Land, we controlled harmful diseases and insect pests by using Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

The Land at Epcot

“The Land” at Epcot Center. (Click photo to enlarge)

IPM is the practice of using a combination of organic-type sprays, beneficial insects to eat the bad bugs, farm cleanliness measures, and good plant training practices which allow the sun and air to circulate in the plant canopy. Why would Disney utilize IPM 20 years ago, when organic food was hardly known by the average consumer and chemical pesticide use was commonplace? The answer: The thousands of guests coming through the middle of the Epcot greenhouse every day on a boat ride made it technically impossible to spray harmful chemicals in the greenhouse.

There is an old saying: “Necessity breeds innovation”. In this case, necessity created 30 years of groundbreaking research and successful application of natural pest control practices in the world’s largest hydroponic showcase facility. Much of the IPM research was done in conjunction with the University of Florida, and can be found in many scientific publications.

Bell Book and Candle

Bell Book and Candle Rooftop Farm – New York (Click photo to enlarge)

I share this story because it inspired me to teach every new Future Growing vertical farmer to do the same. Our clients produce healthy, local, chemical-free food for consumers — and for every plant that is purchased from one of our growers, another chemically-treated plant is not purchased from “Big Agriculture”. This is a perfect example of how the world’s problems can be reduced or eliminated when each consumer makes a conscious choice to live a greener life!

There is a science behind the use of beneficial insects. An entomology background is generally required to identify the genus and species of the problem insect. Once the pest problem has been properly identified, the specific genus and species of a predatory insect must be purchased and released at specific intervals for maximum kill rate. Some outdoor farms that have a wide variety of crops, such as Bell Book and Candle, create a natural environment for many of the good bugs to reproduce and create their own natural ecosystem.


IPM Blog 5

The second option is to use organic sprays on a regular basis during the heavy pest season. Below are three of my favorite organic sprays that have given our growers tremendous success, even in a place like Florida during the warmer months! If you are a home gardener, you can use the same formula to easily and safely control pests right in your own back yard!

Here’s an organic spray for many insects like aphids, mites, thrips, whiteflies, and other small insects. This formula even serves as a mild fungicide. Mixing instructions follow:

  • Horticultural grade insecticidal soap, 1 tablespoon per gallon of water
  • Horticultural grade neem oil, 1 tablespoon per gallon of water
    • Mix everything well, and then continue to shake periodically during use.
    • Always spray in morning, before sunrise, or in late evening. Never spray in sunlight.
    • Spray plants liberally — soak them — and be sure to get the undersides of leaves where the insects feed.
    • Discard old spray. Do not save!
    • Clean sprayer well after each use.

Apply once a week during light pest season — or twice a week during heavy pest season.

Organic spray for all worms or caterpillars:

  • 1 tablespoon per gallon of water (or label rate), of Bacillus thuringiensis (BT, brand name Thuricide)
    • Follow label and mix well.
    • Always spray in morning, before sunrise, or in late evening. Never spray in sunlight.
    • Spray plants liberally — soak the plant well — and be sure to get the undersides of leaves where the worms or caterpillars feed.
    • Discard old spray. Do not save!
    • Clean sprayer well after each use.

Apply when you first start seeing worms in the areas they are feeding.

Organic spray for leaf fungus like powdery mildew:

  • Potassium bicarbonate, or Mil-Stop brand.
  • Follow instructions on label, and mix well.
    • Always spray in morning, before sunrise, or in late evening. Never spray in sunlight.
    • Spray plants liberally. Soak the plants well.
    • Discard old spray. Do not save!
    • Clean sprayer well after each use.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC