Inside a 300,000 square foot greenhouse in Riverhead LI, a farming revolution is growing.
But its not 'what' is being grown. It's how and when it is grown.
When most traditional farmers in our area wrap up their growing seasons in late fall, Carl Gabrielsen is just getting started
“We are not blessed with warm weather year round on Long Island" he said.
There is a tremendous market out there. 15 million people within a 40, 50 mile radius and we can't feed them, we can’t feed ourselves anymore. But is this changing that? It's definitely changing that.”
Gabrielsen's family has grown flowers at their farm since the 1950s. However, they used to take the winter off.
Then a few years ago, Carl discovered a method that would enable him to produce viable crops in the offseason...regardless of the weather
"Hydroponic is done exclusively in water” he said.
Hydroponic farming, growing plants indoors, without soil, originated more than 60 years ago, but it was only recently the practice took off
Dickson Depommier is a Professor of Public Health at Columbia University and the author of "The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century."
“Hydroponic farming in general has been on the upswing in general, particularly because of severe weather patterns” he said. "This is a high speed bullet train."
Growing hydroponically allows farmers to cheat the seasons.
But it's also brought fresh produce to places where there's no room to grow the traditional way.
Depommier helped create the concept of Vertical Farming, which is just what it sounds like...Growing food from the bottom up.
It's happening around the world, like in Newark, where one of the world's largest vertical farms, Newark Urban Farms, just opened this fall.
"There is nothing you can't grow hydropinically" Depommier said.
Out in Riverhead, Gabrielsen Farms is producing up to 6000 heads of lettuce a week. As well as greens like bok choy and herbs like basil and parsley.
As with any kind of farming, it starts with a seed. There are also no pesticides.
Gabrielsen uses insects to control the population of damaging aphids
"Years ago, if you saw, lets say, an aphid, you would get out the pesticides and just blast away, ya know? Now we release parasitic wasps, they'll hatch and just seek out the aphids" Gabrielsen said.
As Gabrielsen's lettuce winds up in supermarkets and restaurants on Long Island, and Vertical Farming begins to serve more produce-starved urban communities, Hydroponic farming is feeding global demand for healthy locally grown food year round.
And one additional note, most of the Gabrielsen Farm Greenhouse is actually powered by solar energy.