Hydroponic farming planned on vacant Miami Beach lots
Freight Farms Inc. and Energy Cost Solutions Group LLC. have entered negotiations with the City of Miami Beach to possibly establish hydroponic farming in North Beach. Commissioners are to weigh each proposal in the fall and, if one is approved, introduce farming into the city soon. Miami Beach will grow crops indoors using hydroponic farming or vertical farming if either proposal is approved.
The farming method has gained popularity in recent years despite being around for decades. Farmers are able to use machines and technology to grow crops indoors. They are able to use resources more efficiently with the likes of computers maintaining water, temperature, humidity, and other nutrients at optimal, consistent levels.
The process begins with a small tray with deep pockets for soil that looks like a baking tray for about a dozen mini loaves. A farmer pops a tiny seed in each hole.
The trays are usually placed on a conveyer belt that takes the tray at times under LED lighting to help the crops grow and at other times under streams of water that feed the sprouts growing through small pockets under the tray.
Consumers reap the benefits by consuming pesticide-free produce at restaurants that choose to source their products locally and grocery stores that often stock these products on their shelves.
Residents have been driving commissioners to consider community-based gardening and farming options ever since the North Beach Master Plan public outreach process.
Consultant Dover, Kohl and Partners recommended in a conceptual design plan presented in 2018 that commissioners consider one of eight city-owned lots for a container farm. Most of the lots – more than half are across from North Shore Park in North Beach – sit empty.
Commissioners are following the advice of two of their committees – Sustainability and Resiliency as well as Finance and Citywide Projects – in exploring how to incorporate a temporary incubator project until the city organizes a long-term plan for the vacant lots.
Commissioners are narrowing their search from three proposers to two. Freight Farms leads the race as the top-ranked proposer. Energy Cost Solutions Group was ranked second.
Freight Farms manages hydroponic farming in 39 states and is working in 15 countries after being established in 2010. Energy Cost Solutions Group opened in 2009 and has experience guiding a variety of new construction projects as a LEED consultant.
CEA Advisors LLC, the third company involved, is no longer in the running.
Freight Farms. and Energy Cost Solutions Group are covering the costs themselves of preparing their studies and proposals. The proposers must include the final site selection, site development plan, community involvement strategy, and financial considerations.
Crop selection will also be included in the proposal. Commissioners are looking for a variety of green leaves, herbs, and produce that are viable and sustainable.
Commissioners are contemplating several metrics when making their decision. Melissa Berthier, the city’s assistant director of marketing and communications, wrote by email that commissioners are looking for proposals with plenty of detail, such as the exact location of the hydroponic farm and the size and layout of the containers carrying the crops. They also want to learn how much the city will need to invest and what revenue can be expected.
Commissioners are to review the final proposals and decide whether to move forward with either plan in September. The city’s Procurement and Economic Development departments are managing the negotiations at the moment.
The administration is to present the results of the negotiations and recommendations in the Sept. 11 city commission meeting.