I recently had the pleasure of virtually meeting the founder of Indoor Organic Gardens of Poughkeepsie, Brud Hodgkins. First, who doesn’t love his name? It’s phonetically pronounced like brother (versus brooder). Brud is no fly-by- night operator either, as he’s logged a respected 40-year career in the financial services industry and has been enticed into his new role by the hard data and much needed agricultural sustainability aspects that indoor vertical farming exposes.
An engineer by education, he’s now putting his money where his mouth is…and putting clean and nutrient-dense micro greens into the mouths of others; namely local school children and senior citizens.
It’s known that both groups do not consistently receive or wish to eat their veggies. Smoothies are the gateway. Embedding the micro greens into smoothies hidden by vanilla and honey flavors is a brilliant way to make this happen. In fact, Brud has initiated a pilot program with 300 students (and also 300 seniors) in Dutchess County, New York. Incidentally, the county provides over 3,000 breakfasts and lunches daily to students. So there’s a market to be penetrated.
Straight away, it was evident during our discussion that Brud is on a mission. He explains it under the theory of implementing a Triple Bottom Line focused on the social, environmental and economic needs of the community.
Socially, the aforementioned need for school children and seniors’ nutritional absorption as he explains can be met through not just the obvious production output of an indoor vertical farm but from a Nutrition Factory. He’s further aligned himself with Dutchess County’s new health department commissioner, Dr. Henry Kurban, a true-believer in preventative medicine with a focus on diet and exercise. No mystery here, a good diet and consistent exercise are the essence of preventative medicine!
Environmentally, Brud explained in the City of Poughkeepsie there is over one million square feet of unoccupied building space. Back in the late 90’s, I spent some time there and found Poughkeepsie was not unlike many once-vibrant towns throughout the United States, with a semi-shuttered main street and far too many people out of work. He owns the building (on Main Street!) which gives him increased freedom to focus on energy output and consumption or the BTU (British thermal unit) which he details as only an engineer can.
Beyond his evident altruism, Brud is a business man who artfully details the third component of the Triple Bottom Line goal as economic. Putting people and buildings to work is far easier said than done but the framework is there, both literally and figuratively. In fact, the county jail is within walking distance of his operation and Brud will seek to offer ex-offenders and those men and women about to be released (under a work-furlough program) the ability to work, learn and earn.
As he digs deep into operational costs and revenue analysis, scaling his operation, building out and expanding capacity, his goals are within sight. Fed by revenue streams from supplying local restaurants (whose chef’s are more than pleased to see and taste local, fresh micro greens in the dead of winter) and newly-inked contracts with produce distributors, the future for Poughkeepsie and Dutchess County are as bright as the LED’s that light the way forward.