Bringing Down the Cost of Microgreens, One Vertical Farm at a Time

Our Name Is Farm, a New York-based consulting firm, looks to tech to help bring down the cost of this highly perishable product.

Editor’s note: We kicked off our first annual Food Loves Tech event last summer in Chelsea—here’s a recap. We’re bringing a taste of the food and farming future back this year, but just across the East River at Industry City. Leading up to the event, this story is part of an ongoing series about technology’s effects on our food supply.

This story is also part of 1 Minute Meal, a documentary series that uses food to reveal the communities, legacies, dreams, realities and unseen forces that shape life in New York City.

When Liz Vaknin and Shelley Golan founded Our Name Is Farm, a New York-based consulting firm, they focused on helping farmers adapt to the demands of digital marketing. But as they gained more experience with agricultural in the tri-state area, they became more invested in creating tangible opportunities for people of all walks of life to grow and eat local produce.

The variety of farms that Our Name Is Farm has supported have taught the organization that innovation in today’s agricultural economy is not the same as disruption; it’s more an extension of farmers’ fundamental need to understand their environment and manage it effectively. By working with vertical farmers like Sky Vegetables and joining New York’s Agriculture Technology Collective, Golan and Vaknin embrace new opportunities for urban farming, while trying to figure out how relatively expensive new techniques and products could be pushed towards the goals of affordable access, local control and food system creation at the neighborhood level.

Their most enthusiastic focus is microgreens, long considered expensive, luxury items with little consumer awareness and a barely developed supply chain. Yet, microgreens—which can be grown without fertilizer in a matter of weeks, but have a short shelf life once harvested—are the perfect candidate for urban growing environments, which tend to be space-deprived and often use hydroponic, rather than soil-based, growing methods.

The promise of indoor vertical farming is far from fulfilled. But by matching new technologies for growing plants on rooftops, in basements and in cramped New York apartments, Our Name Is Farm hopes to ultimately reduce the cost of local food.

Through September 1, Edible Manhattan is collaborating with Edible Brooklyn, Edible Bronx, Edible Queens, and the Staten Island Advance to debut 30 new videos about food and life in New York. Subscribe to 1 Minute Meal to see food films from all five boroughs.

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James Boo is a multimedia journalist based in Brooklyn. As Editor-in-Chief of Real Cheap Eats, an independent filmmaker, and a freelance food writer, James has devoted his storytelling career to the intersection of food and culture. You can see more episodes of this web series at oneminutemealfilms.com.