At Plantronics Inc. headquarters in Santa Cruz, CA, thousands of pounds of leafy greens are growing in an unlikely location — a paved lot just yards away from their employees’ offices.
In 2014, Plantronics partnered with Santa Cruz-based Cityblooms to build a microfarm on their corporate campus. The computer-automated hydroponic tables supply biweekly harvests of crops such as lettuce, basil, cilantro, parsley, and bok choi to the on-site cafés operated by Bon Appétit Management Company. Cityblooms estimates that the micro-farm will deliver 6,000 pounds of produce annually.
How does it work? Cityblooms founder Nick Halmos says that the microfarm modules, each about the size of a table, “use the power of cloud computing [and] a mobile user interface [to give] the farmer remote command and control power while also keeping track of important crop data and operational records.” With the automated system, the microfarm requires a fraction of the labor and inputs such as water and nutrients as compared to a traditional urban farm. As an added bonus, Plantronics’ existing solar array is able to supply all of the farm’s energy needs.
When asked about the best thing he’s tasted from the microfarm, Nick says, “All the crops grown at the Plantronics micro-farm have been delicious. However, the creations the Bon Appétit team has made with our harvests are what really makes our work shine. For example, the pestos that Chef/Manager Cheyenne Diaz has made with our freshly picked basil have been simply amazing!”