How a hydroponic farming company is improving access to fresh produce in St. Louis

Larry Chapman | Aug 29, 2022

Seneca Commercial Real Estate

article originally appeared

The gold standard of farm-to-table is fresh produce that’s available 365 days a year, not dependent on weather and grown in a sustainable way.

It would be even better if farm-to-table produce could fill the voids called food deserts and make a meaningful difference to people and their diets. This future isn’t a pipe dream. It’s actually coming. And as this new standard for delivering produce and vegetables expands, we’re all going to benefit from it.

Today, lots of buzz words surround food and diet. Organic, no genetically modified organisms, no pesticides, no herbicides, local, home grown, hydroponic and so on. Like many things, these words are often parsed by those using them, and may or may not mean what you think. For example, locally grown could apply to food grown more than 300 miles away. Then, there are words like food deserts, areas with little fresh produce available, where preprocessed foods low in nutrition, high in fat and sodium dominate. And now, delays and supply chain problems create even more uncertainty.

How can we address these problems?
We all like farmers markets, places where you can come to know the various farmers, learn what they can deliver and find the things you like. Unfortunately, even our local farmers are seasonal and dependent on favorable weather and transportation. Even without these constraints, farmers markets are a source of limited supply, but not a real solution.

For a large-scale problem like this, technology is often an element of the solution. For instance, extensive indoor farming, whether in the form of massive green houses or hydroponics, produce fresh, tasty food, largely independent of weather conditions, and we can expect to see more of this.As approaches like this ramp up, and more consumers are exposed to the taste and quality of local foods, people may begin to reject produce that’s been on a truck for weeks.

A star is born
Enter Demetrius Bledsoe and his big idea called FreshHarvest 365 (FH365). Once I recognized Bledsoe had a game-changing concept, my company, Seneca, invested in FreshHarvest 365 and I’m excited about the chance to make a major, positive impact.

In short, FH365 takes advantage of new technology that allows the conversion of shipping containers into fully functional high-tech hydroponic gardens using proprietary software that allows fresh vegetables to be grown almost anywhere at a modest investment. These containers use very little electricity or water, produce little waste and can grow the equivalent of more than 2.5 acres of produce per year in a40-foot container by operating 365 days per year regardless of weather. This approach also uses no herbicides and no pesticides. The produce FH365 grows tastes better and can be grown and delivered wherever it is needed with little or no transportation. Imagine local grocery stores growing exactly what they need, when they need it and making it available immediately to their customers. Imagine restaurants, food banks and schools accessing nutritious, fresh produce for their immediate needs at a reasonable cost, without supply chain or weather concerns.

Better still, FH365 is a platform to train people for this growing new agriculture industry. This is particularly useful in neighborhoods that know little about farming. The opportunity is not just for quality, fresh food, but also to get people involved in the experience and provide a new source of jobs in the new hydroponic farms. It all makes for a truly renewable and sustainable community resource.

As the father of four daughters, who participated in our backyard garden, I’ve seen what happens when people feel a connection to their food. It becomes more than just sustenance. It’s now an important and desirable part of their lives.

FH365 isn’t the solution to all our needs, but it is a creative and effective step in the right direction that will help our local community in so many ways.