Early next year, an abandoned runway at the now defunct Stapleton Airport in Aurora will get a lot greener—literally.
Gotham Greens, a Brooklyn, New York-based purveyor of fresh produce and food, is behind the endeavor with its 30,000-square-foot greenhouse-slash-office-building, planned as the brand’s Mountain West flagship location.
The new Aurora facility, which will occupy a lot adjacent to food-centric Stanley Marketplace, will hydroponically grow basil and up to 12 varieties of lettuce, says Eric Haley, Gotham Greens co-founder and chief financial officer. Many of the fresh greens will be sold to Whole Foods and local restaurants like Tommy Lee’s Uncle and Hop Alley, and some of the basil will be used in the company’s line of salad dressings and pesto dips.
“I’ve been wanting to move out to Denver, or do a project in Denver, for as long as I can imagine,” says Haley, 39, a Colorado native and current Brooklyn resident who grew up in unincorporated Arapahoe County before moving to Greenwood Village in high school. “It’s one of the fastest growing cities in America; it’s got an up-and-coming food culture; and consumers are generally aligned with this sort of ethos [of] health, wellness, sustainability.”
The finished Gotham Greens facility will include a technical building that houses offices and on-site packaging alongside the glass-walled greenhouse, which will run entirely on renewable electricity. Inside the greenhouse, a computer program will control environmental factors like temperature, humidity, dew point, and light levels, ensuring that produce can grow—and grow well—365 days a year, no matter the weather.
“It’s a very zen space,” says Haley.
It’s also a very sustainable space. By employing a form of hydroponics known as nutrient film technique, the greenhouse will use about 95 percent less water than conventional farming, says Haley. Plants will be moved as they grow to maximize space, which will help the greenhouse produce a much higher yield than conventional agriculture; the yield should equal that of a 20-acre conventional farm. Also, by growing and packing produce on site and delivering it directly to customers, “we’re able to basically reduce the supply chain and have greater transparency on where the product has come from and how it was grown and the labor practices associated with it,” Haley says.
Once the facility opens, which Haley estimates will happen in the first quarter of 2020, there will be free guided public tours and field trips for schools, businesses, and other local organizations. All told, the endeavor will create about 30 full-time jobs, says Haley, and it’s part of a broader expansion by 10-year-old Gotham Greens. The company currently has five locations in New York and Chicago, with new sites in Providence, Chicago, and Baltimore also in the works.