Hidden beneath Michelin-starred restaurant Atera, in the kind of space where you might expect to find an after hours dance party, is something even more exclusive - a thriving farm. Our team recently paid a visit to Farm.One, a tech-driven, flavor-forward vertical farm buried in the middle of Tribeca. In this subterranean laboratory, an entirely new kind of farming is emerging – it's hyper-local, hyper-efficient and hydroponic, but if you think this is just about eco-consciousness, you're missing the point.
The engineers at Farm.One started with a clean slate, completely rethinking every aspect of the growing process. They designed their own hardware - a system of compact racks that stack plants in layers, with a growing medium made from coconuts - and their own software, which is tailored not just to specific varieties, but to clients' exact specifications for each plant. Looking for edible Dianthus flowers with a bud size between 25 and 35 millimeters? Their system can churn them out with remarkable consistency.
Farm.One has found an enviable niche here in NYC: instead of competing with conventional farming, they have doubled down on specialty offerings. A proprietary nutrient mix gives their produce the depth of flavor and sensorial experiences that are often missing from conventional hydroponic vegetables, and an emphasis on rare varieties of difficult-to-grow microgreens and edible flowers gives their clients' dishes exclusivity and beauty.
It may be a while before any of us are buying our conventional vegetables from urban farms like Farm.One. But in the meantime, beneath our city, in a climate-controlled chamber where seasonality has no meaning, trays of exotic produce earmarked for Eleven Madison Park and Marea are hinting at the future of agriculture and flavor.