There is a large brick-clad building in Endicott, NY, and it’s hiding a secret inside.. Bright lights and lush green hues radiating from its front windows highlight faded logos of occupants’ past. This location had sat vacant until AgZeit Farms chose it as the next home for their uniquely sustainable business.
Now, racks of herbs and leafy greens bask under light in the front rooms of the facility as employees work in the back to process the endless sea of green. The harvest of organic herbs and leafy greens is destined for local restaurants, independent grocers and other loyal buyers.
AgZeit is meeting the growing demand for organic food by implementing sustainable methods that allow for year-round harvests with as little waste as possible. The company sees vacant or under-utilized real-estate is a prime candidate to be retro-fit for indoor growing, bringing life to the community in the process.
“I actually own a large organic farm in Upstate, NY,” says Andy Maslin, Chief Agricultural Office 2445 Organics, who partners with AgZeit. “There are numerous fixed costs related to outdoor growing – tractors, equipment, land taxes, labor. Not to mention, you can’t control the weather.”
AgZeit’s indoor approach allows for verticality, predictability and automation in the growing process. Water captured from humidity in the air is used to hydrate plants. Special organic soil is used, then composted and re-used to further reduce waste and maintain quality. Advanced technologies and proprietary soils are key to AgZeit’s operation, but it is the local community which AgZeit’s CEO, Jim Dutcher, credits as the secret to the company’s success.
“AgZeit started out in the Union Endicott school district in 2017 as part of Tiger Ventures, a project-based learning approach which allows students to learn from small businesses,” says Dutcher. “One benefit to this partnerships is that AgZeit has readily trained folks to hire upon graduation. The students get to learn about business, biology, chemistry, community and more.”
AgZeit is an active member of the Koffman Incubator whose mission it is to support startup businesses with space to work and programming to guide their progress. The company is one of nearly twenty participating in the Southern Tier Clean Energy Incubator program, a NYSERDA- funded program that strives to start, attract, and grow clean energy companies to drive economic growth and further Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s ambitious clean energy goals. Through this program AgZeit has gained access to specialized grants, made connections in industry and tapped into a talent pool at Binghamton University to progress their technologies. A partner program, XCEED, worked with AgZeit to provide half a dozen interns to assist in engineering efforts.
Resources from the incubator and its programs are helping fuel the company’s growth to new heights. A sizeable development grant from Broome County was awarded which will assist in the upgrade to a second location in the 50-100 thousand square foot range, five times the size of their current. The increase in size will allow for sales to large grocers and institutions, in which AgZeit is currently in the process of inking deals with. To top it all off, organic hemp ready for year round harvesting is in their sights.
By taking advantage of the development resources and business incubators in the area, AgZeit is on track to do big things. Creating jobs, educating students and revitalizing vacant real estate are cherries on top of this sustainable and innovative business, bringing healthy food to the local area and beyond.
Learn more about AgZeit at their website here.
– Cory Kimmell