Cory Mahony read an article about hydroponic farming that piqued his interest — and then got him hooked. He started the controlled scientific growing practice at home. He’s now the owner …
Cory Mahony read an article about hydroponic farming that piqued his interest — and then got him hooked. He started the controlled scientific growing practice at home. He’s now the owner of Urban Fields Agriculture, a hydroponic vertical indoor farm in Patchogue.
Mahony’s home setup allowed 15 plants to be grown at once. He’s upgraded a bit to be able to hold over 1,800 plans. He opened the business last September and moved into his Patchogue space a few months later. The Sachem alumnus was always interested in technology and wanted to combine that interest with the environment.
Traditional farming is based in soil, right? Not here. The plants and herbs grown in Mahony’s farm are growing without soil. They’re layered in flat beds where the roots are submerged in nutrient-rich water, making up for (and then some) what they would get from soil. It’s actually more efficient than traditional methods, as the plants will grow 50 percent faster and use 90 percent less water.
“The plants are basically gorging themselves,” Mahony said.
But it’s not just a free-for-all. The farm is carefully curated and controlled through lighting, humidity and temperature. There are seeds that sprout in a controlled environment (mostly with humidity levels) and then are moved to a larger bed to grow to full size.
Right now, Mahony is growing basil, arugula, chives and mint. He’s also working on growing an edible flower called nasturtium. The plants each get their own treatments, depending on what they need, and nothing more. Mahony judges for iron, calcium, magnesium and other elements to give the plants exactly what they need to grow healthy. He said the controlled environment produces more flavorful and fresh produce. His farm does not use pesticides, and the plants have a similar lifetime to traditionally grown plants and herbs.
Where to find it
Several local businesses are serving UFA products, including Donatina Pizzeria and PeraBell. Patchogue’s Great South Bar has also developed a cocktail using UFA basil, called Kermit Juice. Mahoney said his products would also be in Lombardi’s Market in Holbrook soon.
What is hydroponic vertical farming?
According to a report from the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), hydroponic vertical farming involves growing crops in controlled indoor environments, with precise light, nutrients and temperatures. It’s also possible that the plants are stacked in layers that could reach several stories tall. The system allows for year-round growth, eliminates the need for pesticides, conserves water, conserves transport energy and uses less horizontal space. Water is circulated in a bed beneath the plants to ensure an even chemical distribution.