On a cold winter day, chef José Andrés steps into a warehouse in the shadow of Newark airport. After donning a Tyvek suit and hairnet, he passes through a code-protected door and is ushered into a narrow, high-ceilinged room that smells … well … like a strawberry patch on a sunny June day.
The warehouse, in Kearny, N.J., is owned by Bowery Farming Inc., a seven-year-old company that’s grown into the largest vertical farming operation in the U.S. Like most others in the business, Bowery specializes in salad greens and herbs, which require relatively little space and time to grow. But Bowery is adding a splash of crimson to all that green: shiny red strawberries. And Andrés, the founder of World Central Kitchen—a nonprofit that brings food to disaster-stricken communities—as well as an investor in Bowery, has come to sample the crop. “The smell is as good as you can find,” Andrés says after biting into a juicy red berry. “And so is the taste.”