Nick Halmos, Founder and CEO of Cityblooms, was named Innovator of the Year at the 8th Annual NEXTties Award ceremony by a local Santa Cruz group who honors those who inspire the community to reach further and higher.
Our CEO, Nick Halmos, was recently recognized for his work to fight food insecurity. Halmos, 37, lives in Santa Cruz, Calif., and is CEO and founder of Cityblooms, a company that uses technology to provide intelligent automated agriculture in urban environments.
“Since 2014, Plantronics associates have enjoyed the ultimate in fresh produce from a hydroponic microfarm installed by Cityblooms. The automated mini greenhouses (a.k.a. “grow- bots”) are powered by solar energy, virtually eliminate the need for pesticides, and improve water efficiency by up to 90 percent compared to conventional methods.”
Cityblooms is pleased to be working with Soliculture to incorporate its wavelength selective photovoltaics (WSPV) technology into our cultivation units to fine-tune light for crops while simultaneously generating electricity! We plan to offer Soliculture solar panels as an option on all of our equipment.
“The new “lumo” panels stem from the research of UC Santa Cruz Physics Professors Sue Carter and Glenn Alers. They designed the red dye that gives the solar panel its unique ability to tweak the light escaping the panel. Once light strikes the panel, this luminescent dye absorbs green light, which plants don’t use well during photosynthesis, and lets red and blue light filter down onto the waiting lettuce, kale, and arugula. It then converts the green light into more red light for the plants to use. Meanwhile, the solar cells absorb all colors of light that strike them and convert them into electricity.” (Read More at Santa Cruz Tech Beat)
The 2015 Earth Day celebration at Plantronics was a special event for the Cityblooms team as it also marked the one year anniversary of the installation of our pilot project on the Plantronics campus. It has been an amazing year for the Cityblooms team as we have had an opportunity to put our micro-farm through its paces. There have been both successes and learning moments in our quest to grow the best food we can.
Over the past 12 months we have grown 16 different crop varieties including lettuces, micro greens, kale, tomatoes, basil, and bok-choy. Our farm’s performance improves with each passing month and the overwhelmingly positive response that we have received from the Plantronics community is the fuel we need to keep pushing forward.
Our concept has evolved quite a bit since we began building prototypes in 2011. The receipt of a 2015 Business Environmental award from Acterra is a sign that we are moving in the right direction, but in reality this journey has just begun. Now it is time for Cityblooms to expand its horizons to start farming for other institutions. So if you would like to have a Cityblooms Micro-Farm on your campus to grow amazing produce, give us a call!
March 18, 2015 – Acterra has announced that Cityblooms and Plantronics have been selected to receive a 2015 Business Environmental Award in the category of Small/Medium Environmental Project for its Hydroponic Micro-Farm.
Acterra’s Business Environmental Awards is one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s oldest and most prestigious environmental recognition programs. Initiated in 1990, it is considered a heavyweight among award programs due to its rigorous application and judging process.
States Committee Chair Bruce Klafter, “As we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of this program, Acterra is pleased to recognize another accomplished group of awardees who exemplify the possibilities of sustainable enterprise. Each year, there is an unspoken expectation that our newest awardees will raise the bar from prior years, and this year’s winners have met this challenge without question. We proudly congratulate them for their achievements in sustainable business practices and sincerely hope that others will follow their lead.”
Cityblooms and Plantronics will be honored at the 25th Anniversary Business Environmental Awards Reception on May 28th at Intuit Corporation in Mountain View. This special anniversary event will also celebrate the program’s 25-year history, past awardees, and legacy of corporate environmental leadership in the Bay Area. For more information, visit www.acterra.org/bea or get updates on Twitter at #ActerraBEA.
Read more details in the Press Release here.
After 3 months of crop trials, the Cityblooms pilot project is now officially in production mode and making bi-weekly deliveries to the Plantronics Café. Bon Appétit chef Cheyenne has been totally jazzed by the culinary options their new farm has opened up. We have been producing a variety of amazing lettuces, basil, cilantro, parsley, and bok choy. Micro-green production is also scheduled to resume shortly. From planting to consumption, the crop never travels more than 300 yards for the ultimate in eating local.
CEO Nick Halmos with a Cityblooms Bike Trailer ready for a short delivery.
Our largest gains in the past few months have been in the realm of food safety. The installation is now independently food safety certified under Global GAP and USDA standards and may be the first urban micro-farm to complete the rigorous certification process. Furthermore, we have built the record keeping and scheduling tasks into our cloud-based UI for a truly paper-free food safety program. Now we have hydroponic automation control, crop production management, and food safety records all rolled into a single mobile platform. This effort has definitely paved the way to making food safety certification for future micro-farms a much less daunting task.
Parsley taking over
We are also busy working on our latest prototype modular tomato unit. Tomatoes are a tricky crop to grow in the urban setting due to the size of tomato plant sought in most commercial operations. However, there is a line of scientific research originating at Rutgers University suggesting that it is possible to increase overall yield by severely limiting the number of fruit clusters per vine while increasing planting density and frequency of crop turnover. This program results in a much shorter crop canopy, which in turn creates greater flexibility in urban applications. We designed a cultivation unit specifically to run a Rutgers limited cluster tomato program and the requisite tomato propagation schedule falls right in line with our lettuce program. So far the results are very encouraging!
Cityblooms made its first public appearance at Plantronics’ corporate headquarters to celebrate Earth Day on April 22. Siebe handed out fresh pea shoots and lettuce grown in the onsite micro-farm to company employees to take home for an evening salad. Farmer-in-chief, Nick Halmos, donned his infamous “pea-shoot suit” while he engaged in table talk with Plantronics employees; it even inspired the Plantronics CEO to wear the suit to a companywide meeting!
We have been hard at work over the last couple months designing a new generation Cityblooms micro-farm and are proud to announce that we have begun installation of our second proof of concept installation. The micro-farm will be producing a variety of leafy greens. With this system, we expect to produce 5-6 tons of green’s per year for a kitchen that serves lunch for 300 people a day.