A Q&A with Viraj Puri, Co-Founder and CEO of Gotham Greens
For those that do not know Gotham Greens, please tell us a little bit about the company and when the company was formed?
Viraj: We are on a mission to transform how and where fresh food is grown. Gotham Greens is a pioneer in indoor greenhouse agriculture and a leading producer of fresh and sustainably- grown salad greens, herbs, dressings, dips and cooking sauces. By using hydroponic systems in 100% renewable energy-powered greenhouses, our farms use 95% less water and 97% less land than conventional farming. Since our launch in 2011, Gotham Greens has grown from a single urban rooftop greenhouse in Brooklyn, N.Y., to a multi-state greenhouse operator and one of the largest hydroponic leafy green producers in North America.
How many farms do you operate? And where are those farms located? What do you grow?
Viraj: Gotham Greens currently operates 500,000 square feet of greenhouses across five U.S. states (and growing), including locations in New York City, Chicago, Providence, R.I., Baltimore and Denver. Through our national network of high-tech, hydroponic greenhouses, Gotham Greens produces fresh, long-lasting and tasty leafy greens and herbs along with a line of plant-based salad dressings, dips and sauces, available in more than 2,000 retailers in 40 states, restaurants in select cities, and foodservice customers all year-round.
Why did you choose a greenhouse over a vertical farm?
Viraj: Gotham Greens is focused on building a more sustainable food system and we are drawn to adaptive reuse projects in cities across America. Gotham Greens has a track record of established, robust and proven operations and technology compared to vertical farming, which is still a relatively young industry. Our hydroponic greenhouse technology uses less energy than vertical farming. While vertical farming is an innovative extension of modern greenhouse farming with overlapping principles that has garnered quite a bit of interest, there are still questions surrounding the technology and financial viability of this farming method. In theory, fully indoor environments that rely on artificial light and HVAC systems can offer very high yields and levels of climate control, pest management and food safety, but these benefits can be outweighed by significantly higher capital and operating costs than our hydroponic greenhouses.
What are your predictions for the future of controlled environment agriculture?
Viraj: For many parts of the country, it’s difficult to get fresh, locally-grown produce all year round. Since more than 95% of lettuce grown in the United States comes from California and Arizona, by the time it reaches other markets, it loses its quality, taste and nutritional value – and has a much shorter shelf life. Gotham Greens, and controlled environment agriculture at large, provides an opportunity to transform our food system for the better by growing more fresh foods closer to where consumers live — all while using fewer natural resources.
Consumers, retailers and foodservice operators are increasingly recognizing the reliability, consistency and high quality of greenhouse-grown produce that’s grown in close proximity to large portions of the population and we only expect this model to continue to grow as consumers pay greater attention to the food they eat and its impact on the planet. While indoor farming may not represent the future of all fresh produce production, for certain types of crops, it will become much more prevalent in the coming years.
Learn more: @gothamgreens or gothamgreens.com