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“Smart” Bowery Farm transforms vacant former brownfield site in Bethlehem

Vertical agriculture saves energy and space in indoor operation


No red barn, no fields to plow. It’s a farm but it looks like a giant warehouse.
That’s because it’s Bowery Farm Bethlehem, a smart farm housed in a 156,000-square-foot structure where plants are grown indoors in vertical stacks using artificial light and a fraction of the water that traditional farming requires.
Every step of the process from seed to final packaging is plotted and monitored with a computer operating system. For the consumer this means no pesticides, no GMOs, no need to wash produce and fresher greens and herbs.
Scientist-farmers at the Northampton County facility are men and women wearing white lab coats, hairnets, masks, and booties, washing hands, putting on gloves and stepping into water baths as they move from room to room. Reporters offered a tour of the plant had to meet the same requirements.
Gov. Tom Wolf and several Lehigh Valley dignitaries joined Irving Fain, CEO of the Manhattan-based company, at an outdoor ceremony and press conference on May 26 to celebrate the opening of the farm, which promises at least 70 new jobs for the area.
Bowery Farming has transformed a nearly 9-acre plot in Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII on Feather Way into sustainable vertical indoor farmland designed to serve 50 million people in a 200-mile radius. A brownfields area once devoted to burning coal ash is now producing leafy greens and herbs.
This is Bowery’s third vertical farm, and its biggest, in the mid-Atlantic region. Other farms and research and development centers are in Kearny, N.J., and Nottingham, Md., but the new Bethlehem farm is the most technically advanced.
Wolf said agriculture is Pennsylvania’s top industry, contributing $132.5 billion to the economy and nearly 600,000 jobs. But Bowery’s farm, he said, is taking the industry to a new level, using a brownfield site.

The Governor’s Action Team worked with Bowery to set roots for its first Pennsylvania farm in the Lehigh Valley, he said. Bowery received a funding proposal from the Department of Community and Economic Development for a $210,000 Pennsylvania First grant and a $250,000 Enterprise Zone Tax Credit through the Neighborhood Assistance Program. The company has pledged to invest more than $32 million in this project, he noted.
“This is a big thing for Pennsylvania,” the governor said. “It’s a big deal for Bethlehem’s economic revitalization.”
Fain, who founded Bowery in 2015, said, “If we’ve learned anything it is that we are in a period of unprecedented disruption and uncertainty across our climate and geopolitical circumstances, which unfortunately is going to persist.
“We are also seeing firsthand that our global food system is inextricably tied to these dynamics. At Bowery, wherever food is needed, we can grow it. We are addressing the challenges in our system by growing food smarter for more people in more places.”
Fain said the name Bowery is an adaption of and historically based on the Dutch word for farm and noted Manhattan’s Bowery area once produced crops for the entire city.
Bowery’s Bethlehem Farm is powered with 100% renewable energy and features 15% more efficient LED lighting. A state-of -the-art water recapture and filtration system has been custom-built and ensures the highest quality food safety standards. The Bowery OS, combined with proprietary farm design, custom hardware, artificial intelligence, data and robotics has increased the speed of farm operations permitting the company to grow more food smarter and year round. This will serve as a model for a planned network of farms just outside major cities.
Fain said Bowery chose the Lehigh Valley in part for its strategic location, which will enable it to deliver locally produced, pesticide-free food to market in a matter of hours. Bowery produce will soon be available to specialty and independent grocery partners throughout the region, he said.

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