Two men from North Carolina want to use fish to make lettuce and mushrooms grow on moving walls in Peekskill. Ben Greene and Tyler Nethers are hoping to create a one-of-a-kind "farmery" in downtown Peekskill.
The Farmery and is an aquaponic system that consists of living walls, a greenhouse and a produce/natural product retail store. It is way of combining growing and selling of crops into one location, Greene, the Farmery’s Chief Operations Officer, told the Peekskill City Council at a presentation on March 12.
“We want to be the Willy Wonka’s of agriculture,” Greene said.
He described a place that has never been seen before because it has never been created before. The idea started out as Greene’s masters thesis in industrial design at North Carolina State University. Nethers has setup various aquaponic systems and living walls in Hawaii for the military. They also have a team of other experts that would also assist with their project.
The structure would be made of four shipping containers with a middle greenhouse. They would grow and sell an assorted variety of mushrooms (oyster, seasonal gourmet, shiitake) and baby greens/salad mix, that grow on moving panels of walls. Eventually they could sell the fish (Tilapia and Barramundi) too. They would also invite local farmers and food hobbyists to retail in the store, similar to how a farmer’s market works. So they would sell a wide array of food.
“When I saw the concept I thought it was really unique…is what we want in the city…this type of innovation,” said Peekskill’s Director of Economic Development, James Slaughter. Slaughter found the Farmery while researching agriculture businesses and started conversations with Greene three months ago.
The Farmery’s “u-pick configuration” would have areas with fish, that would be used for the aquaculture. The fish produce waste, microbes convert waste to fertilizer for plants. The plants then filter water that returns to the fish.
“We’ve created an artificial environment with the natural process,” Greene said, instead of a natural environment that grows artificial products.
The Farmery reduces cost of produce and raises the value “through an educational retail experience that stimulates all the senses.” Greene said.
Greene and Nethers were enthusiastic about Peekskill as a potential location for their business, but are still in the nascent phases of attracting investor capital to pay for the start up. Greene explained that the New York climate is the best for growing mushrooms and greens and that the walkable downtown, and historic city of Peekskill, is attractive to them.
“We noticed in Peekskill that it is kind of like a gateway to farming communities in upstate New York,” Greene said. “If there’s a drug store on every corner why can’t there be a farm.” He added money would be recirculating through the community with the farmery.
The Farmery is also energy efficient. It would use the same amount of water as three four-person households would (900 gallons) and 6 kilowatt/hours a day, which is the same that about two 2,000 square foot households would use.
The retail part of the farmery would accommodate all sizes of food producers, including backyard hobby growers, and educate the community as they shop. Greene explained they want it to be a community experience so they would incorporate things like farmer bios and photos next to the products. People would be able to harvest some of their own crops and literally be surrounded by their food, which would be growing on the walls all around the customer. Greene explained that a Farmery cuts out the costs incurred from inventory loss, transportation, labor and energy costs at traditional food stores.
The City Council were very supportive of the idea and wished them the best
“We have a lot of restaurants that are unique and a food coop here. This seems very compatible with what other people are looking to do,” Mayor Mary Foster said.
Slaughter said he, Greene and Nethers had scouted the plot on Main Street between the Salvation Army and Puglsy Park for a potential location.
What do you think of the idea for a farmery in downtown Peekskill? Would you pick your salad off the walls there?