Whole Foods Market’s recently opened Manhattan West store is home to the latest mini-farm installation of Farm.One, which bills itself as Manhattan’s only vertical farm. Farm.One maintains the custom-designed on-site farm for the Manhattan West store to supply the location’s prepared foods and beverages with freshly grown and harvested Blue Spice Basil. The herb is used in an ingredient in such offerings as freshly made pizza and the Whole Foods Mule, a specialty cocktail.
“Every kitchen knows the difference that freshness and quality of ingredients can make to the food they serve,” said Rob Laing, founder and CEO of New York-based Farm.One. “When we started in 2016, it wasn’t financially feasible to build and operate small farms profitably in cities like New York. We’ve now been able to decrease the cost of building a farm and have developed a model where a larger farm, like our TriBeCa flagship, can support small farms for grocery stores, restaurants and the hospitality industry all over the greater New York City area. This marks a real inflection point for what people can expect in their meals and the economy of urban food production.”
Installed at the end of July during the store’s soft opening, the Whole Foods Manhattan West mini-farm takes up a mere 32 square feet and features 150 plant sites on three growing levels. The hydroponic system was created and built by Farm.One’s engineering and technology team to optimize crop productivity, minimize intrusiveness to the store experience and require minimal maintenance. Additionally, the mini-farm’s facade was customized to match the familiar brushed stainless steel aesthetic of Whole Foods. The mini-farm can supply at least 8 pounds of basil per month.
“The first thing our customers notice when they enter the prepared food section of the store is the incredible fragrance of the basil,” noted Chris Manca, local forager, Whole Foods Market Northeast region. “As soon as our chefs, and even our mixologist, had access to the basil, they were inspired to create menu items that highlight the freshness and flavor of Farm.One’s blue spice basil. This collaboration with Farm.One has really impacted the way we think about fresh ingredients in our kitchens, and we can’t wait for customers to come by and experience it.”
The Whole Foods mini-farm adds to several Farm.One installations in the Big Apple, including at October, a Nolita restaurant featuring a 100% plant-based menu; Eataly NYC Flatiron; and the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE), the site of Farm.One’s original prototype farm. Farm.One also has a farm at Project Farmhouse at Union Square. The company plans to build flagships and mini-farms in major cities around the United States and globally over the next 24 months.
“Our hub-and-spoke model of distributed agriculture proves that indoor agriculture doesn’t need tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to be viable and achieve scale,” explained Laing. “Also, by putting farms in visible places around the city we’re ensuring openness and transparency never before achieved in the industry. Whether you visit a Farm.One flagship for a tour or class, when it’s safe to do so, or experience a mini-farm in the middle of a grocery store, you’ll see and learn about how your food is grown.”
Located on 10th Avenue at East 31st Street, the Manhattan West store also features an in-store Matchaful café offering high-quality single-origin matcha beverages and seasonal plant-based food.
Owned by Amazon, Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods is No. 24 on The PG 100,PG's 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. Seattle-based Amazon is No. 2 on the list.