Local Startup is Changing the Vegetable-Growing Game
A Charlottesville startup with big plans to change the way people get their vegetables is blossoming within the community.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A Charlottesville startup with big plans to change the way people get their vegetables is blossoming within the community.
By creating a system that allows the user to grow all their own produce quickly and efficiently, Babylon Microfarms is making it so people and restaurants are now enjoying fresher vegetables at lower costs.
Babylon Microfarms installed one of its hydroponic systems at Charlottesville's Three Notch'd Brewery two weeks ago and has a couple of other big projects in the works as well.
“It uses water and nutrients and plants are able to grow twice as quickly using up to 95 percent less water than conventional agriculture so we can grow a really high amount of produce in a small area,” said founder and CEO of Babylon Microfarms Alexander Olesen.
According to Olesen, they send everything pre-seeded to the user, so a restaurant’s chef wouldn’t have to worry about any farming or gardening. The only thing the user is responsible for his planting and harvesting the crops.
“It’s great to be out seeing these out with customers, seeing them enjoying the produce,” Olesen said.
The product is easy to use and provides places like Three Notch'd with Monticello bib lettuce for salads and many more leafy greens. The executive chef at Tree Notch’d Patrick Carroll said the system allows them to grow a lot of different microgreens, which are “great for flavors and garnishing.”
“It just really pulls a great ‘wow’ factor to the guests coming in,” Carroll said. “It’s a focal point of the restaurant. It’s just a wonderful product.”
This week, six of the restaurant’s menu items incorporate the produce grown in-house, and that number is expected to increase in the coming weeks.
Babylon Microfarms also has deals in place to install similar systems at UVA’s O-Hill Dining Hall as well as the Boar’s Head Resort. Olesen said he’s excited because Boar’s Head Resort’s recent renovation project allows them to make a larger commercial installation that will make their restaurant completely self sufficient in salad. According to Olesen, Boar’s Head would be the first in North American to have their own private hydroponic farm.
“It definitely sets you apart from everybody else,” Carroll said. “People come in and the first thing they see is that you’re really doing local seasonal even though you define the season with this because you can grow anything year-round.”
Babylon Microfarms is also working on a smaller-scale hydroponic unit that can be used in any home. The goal is for that unit to debut within the next year.