The future of sustainable food production continues to take shape on the city’s East Side, as Governor Kathy Hochul has announced a new indoor food production container to advance urban farming and increase awareness about hydroponic gardening, sustainability and nutrition for underserved New Yorkers on Buffalo’s East Side.
Once fully operational, the facility will grow vegetables and herbs year round, in a self-contained environment that will be low energy and soil-free. This type of growing facility also helps to lower greenhouse gas emissions, which helps New York State to achieve its clean energy goals. The project is being spearheaded by a number of groups, including New York Power Authority (NYPA), Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Buffalo Go Green, and NeuWater & Associates.
“We remain committed to addressing food insecurity in East Buffalo and ensuring that the community has access to affordable and healthy food options including fresh fruits and vegetables,” Governor Hochul said. “Indoor food production facilities, like this one announced today, make it much easier to grow healthy food options, without soil, all year round, and right in neighborhoods that need increased access the most. I applaud the New York Power Authority, EPRI, Buffalo Go Green and our local partners for making this shipping container and farming programming available to our East Buffalo community to increase access to healthy foods.”
Kale was chosen as the initial crop because of its high nutrient value and short harvest cycle.
To start, a 40-foot shipping container has been installed at Buffalo Go Green’s Zenner Street urban farm. Operationally, this is a collaborative effort between EPRI, NeuWater & Associates, and Buffalo Center for Health Equity. NYPA’s Environmental Justice Program is working with the aforementioned group, and is led by NeuWater and Associates (to house, manage food production and support distribution to the community). Data from the project will be submitted by EPRI to a nationwide research effort per the environmental impact of indoor farming. The Buffalo Center for Health Equity will own the container farm, while offering agricultural-based community programs.
“This installment of the IFP is a game changer for our community,” said community leader and CEO of NeuWater & Associates LLC, Rita Hubbard-Robinson, who helped organize the effort by bringing together a unique partnership that bridges agriculture research and technology. “The ability to create a sustainable answer to meet the need for produce all year round in East Buffalo has the potential to be a long-term solution. We thank NYPA, Buffalo Center for Health Equity, Buffalo Go Green, Rite Aid Healthy Futures and EPRI for their belief in innovation and ag-tech as a viable solution to address food insecurity in our northern cold climate. This is important to improve the health of our families, our seniors and our precious children.”
The research will help NYS advance the goals of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which require that greenhouse gas emissions be reduced by 40 percent before 2030 and 85 percent by 2050.
The container project is part of NYPA’s outreach through its Environmental Justice program to underserved communities located near its statewide facilities. This particular project was additionally spurred on by the Tops tragedy that occurred in May of 2022. NYPA contributing $300,000 to the facility, which is branded “Feeding the Roots. Blossoming a community” and “The power of love can grow communities.”
Power Authority President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll said, “Every community should have year-round access to fresh produce. Indoor farming facilities, like the one we are celebrating today, are a great tool for addressing both nutritional and sustainability issues. The Power Authority’ is proud to be a good neighbor to underserved communities, especially one as resilient as East Buffalo, by developing energy-related programs that focus on enhancing educational equity and addressing food injustice.”
Along with healthy food production, the site will feature community engagement programs, with oversight and direction from Buffalo Go Green. Community members will get a chance to participate in hydroponic gardening, while learning about the ins and outs of healthy foods and sustainability.
“Buffalo Go Green understands the need for access to healthy food options in underserved communities in the City of Buffalo,” said Buffalo Go Green CEO Allison DeHonney, whose organization provides services and training to help underserved populations in East Buffalo achieve nutritional success and move toward a sustainable future. “We recognize the value of fruits and vegetables and the link between nutritional education and healthy outcomes. Our partnership with the Power Authority and the Center for Health Equity aligns with our mission and vision. Adding this indoor food production unit to farm operations is only one solution to the many issues that ail our local food system and particularly for the resilient residents in the Zenner, East Ferry neighborhood. We are excited for both the neighborhood and the city at large, which will all benefit from this project.”
The Buffalo facility also will look at how to increase crop yields and manage resources, while reducing water consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions.
This is the second indoor farming project in Buffalo for The Power Authority. The first project occurred in 2020, in partnership with FeedMore. The result has been thousands of pounds of kale and other healthy produce that has since been distributed via FeedMore.
New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball said, “We are committed to combatting food insecurity and indoor food production facilities, which provide innovative, sustainable opportunities to grow more fresh food directly in the communities who it most, are a critical part of that commitment. I’m grateful to Governor Hochul and our partners in helping advance this mission, ensuring that all New Yorkers can put healthy, New York food on their plates.”
EPRI Vice President of Electrification and Sustainable Energy Strategy David Porter said, “Indoor food production offers the ability to produce healthy produce year-round while using water and energy more efficiently. EPRI’s research helps to strengthen communities while also educating project collaborators, local stakeholders, and the next generation.”
“Congratulations to Buffalo Go Green on the installation of its brand new, state-of-the-art indoor hydroponic garden shipping container. We learn more each and every day about the long-term effects from pesticides sprayed on our food,” said Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes. “The best alternative is to grow your own food, and a self-contained shipping container is your best bet. Health is wealth. Agriculture, nutrition and self-sustainability are the biggest takeaways for the community. I truly hope that area residents work with Buffalo Go Green to learn how to take advantage of this opportunity. I’d like to thank NYPA for understanding the value and importance of this project, and EPRI, NeuWater & Associates and the Buffalo Center for Health Equity for their ongoing support.”
“Innovative and uniquely designed, this Indoor Food Production System is strategically situated in East Buffalo and will diversify food options for area residents,” said Buffalo Center for Health Equity COO Allita Dockery. “The Buffalo Center for Health Equity will own the structure making this production facility Black-owned and operated. Through this initiative, the BCHE will develop additional vocational opportunities through agricultural technology to grow the breadth of our workforce development programs.”
Environmental Justice Vice President Kaela Mainsah said, “The Power Authority is committed to providing no-cost programs and services to historically marginalized communities located near its assets. Our team offers STEM and mentorship programs for youth, brings resources to local fairs and back-to-school events, hosts weatherization workshops and supports community energy efficiency projects. Community collaboration shows our commitment to sustainability.”
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