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relates to Pricey Greens From Indoor Farms Are Thriving in the Covid Era
Photographer: Daniel Gordon for Bloomberg Businessweek

Pricey Greens From Indoor Farms Are Thriving in the Covid Era

“Novel farming,” which turns out lucrative lettuces and herbs, isn’t hurt by shortages of water or migrant workers. It’s seeing a massive jump in demand.

By Saturday, March 14, even before Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the shutdown of all in-restaurant dining in New York City the next night, Viraj Puri, chief executive officer of the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based indoor urban farming company Gotham Greens, found his business had essentially changed overnight.

His major restaurant customers were suspending all orders “until further notice,” while the grocers, including Whole Foods Market, FreshDirect, and other major chains were doing the opposite, asking for huge increases in product and extra deliveries of the company’s locally grown greens and herbs. (Puri declined to share the food service-retail split for his business, but he says restaurants are the smaller piece.) “My phone was buzzing off the hook from the largest supermarkets, saying can you run extra trucks,” he says. Gotham was ready—it had just opened three facilities in Baltimore, Chicago, and Providence and had another opening in Denver in May, almost tripling its production capacity. In the immediate days after the pandemic declaration, the company increased planting by more than 20%. “For me, it’s seed as much as you can,” says Jenn Frymark, a managing partner who also serves as the company’s “chief greenhouse officer.”