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05/27/2022

Bowery Farming Opens New Smart Farm

Next-gen Bethlehem, Pa., facility located on former industrial brownfield site
Bridget Goldschmidt
Managing Editor
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Bowery Farming aims to double its number of farms by 2023 as it continues the diversification of its pesticide-free produce portfolio.

Vertical-farming company Bowery Farming has opened its largest, most technologically advanced and sustainable commercial smart farm, in Bethlehem, Pa. Bowery transformed a non-arable industrial brownfield site into modern farmland, laying the groundwork for the next phase of climate-smart agriculture.

Featuring industry-leading technological advancements and cutting-edge sustainability initiatives, the Bethlehem farm is key to ramping up expansion of Bowery’s network of farms nationwide. Starting with this facility, the company has created a replicable system to grow food wherever and whenever it’s needed as the business continues to grow.

“If we’ve learned anything from the past two years, it is that we are in a period of unprecedented disruption and uncertainty across our climate and geopolitical circumstances, which unfortunately is going to persist,” noted Irving Fain, founder and CEO of New York-based Bowery Farming. “We are also seeing firsthand that our global food system is inextricably tied to these dynamics. At Bowery, wherever food is needed, we can grow it. We are addressing the challenges in our system by growing food smarter for more people in more places – and that work, securing food for our future, continues today with the opening of our Bethlehem farm.” 

The new farm is powered with 100% renewable energy and features 15% more efficient LED lighting. A state-of-the-art water recapture and filtration system has been custom-built to harness the water transpired from the plants and to ensure the highest-quality food safety standards. According to Bowery, its operating system, combined with proprietary farm design, custom hardware, artificial, data and robotics, has increased the speed of farm operations and processing, thereby enabling the company to continue to grow more food smarter. These learnings will be applied across Bowery’s network of farms in the future.

Bowery’s Bethlehem Farm will supply fresh produce within a 200-mile radius of the facility through such regional retail customers as Whole Foods Market, Giant Food and Albertsons Cos.' Acme and Safeway banners on the East Coast, in addition to e-commerce partners such as Amazon Fresh. Working with local distributors, including Ephrata, Pa.-based Four Seasons Produce, Bowery will also supply produce to specialty and independent grocery partners throughout the region, like local food retailer Gerrity’s in Bethlehem. 

“In addition to bringing at least 70 jobs to Bethlehem, Bowery Farming is innovating to feed the future and fight food insecurity,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf. “This project is a win for agriculture and a win for Pennsylvanians. I’m proud to have invested in Bowery to help them set roots in the commonwealth and grow a sustainable, food-secure future for us all.”

Bowery has partnered with the commonwealth of Pennsylvania as part of a larger redevelopment project at the site of the flagship plant of the former Bethlehem Steel Corp. The new farm will create more than 70 full-time year-round green jobs with no prior farming or agricultural experience required. Additionally, through a partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank of the Lehigh Valley and Northeast Pennsylvania, Bowery will donate fresh produce to address food access and insecurity in the community.

The company is currently constructing two additional farms in the Atlanta and Dallas metro areas to meet increasing demand for its produce.

Now serving 1,000-plus grocery stores, Bowery has raised more than $647 million to date, including a Series C equity round of $325 million in 2021 and a $150 million credit facility led by KKR earlier this year. The company is also on pace to double its revenue again in 2022 for the second consecutive year, and aims to double its number of farms by 2023 as it continues the diversification of its pesticide-free produce portfolio.

This past March, the company launched two varieties of strawberries, offered in a side-by-side Bowery Strawberry Discovery Duopack, representing the first stage of its expansion into fruiting and vine crops; to this end, Bowery recently acquired Traptic, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based 3D vision and robotics harvesting startup.

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