Cityblooms has two different solutions and sets of customers, with unique farming technology for both.
First, we have created patented hydroponic micro-farming modules that can grow food year round, in any environment. Our customers for this solution are large companies. The micro-farms are modular, and can be installed on rooftops, in warehouses, parking lots, and any other nooks and crannies of an urban environment. The farming method uses significantly less water (90%) than traditional farming, and also enables food to be consumed within minutes to hours of harvest, enabling what we call “farm to fork in yards, not miles”. Many foods, such as micro-greens, lose their nutritional density within hours of being harvested. So this type of farming creates not only delicious, fresh food, but significantly more nutritious food as well. Our customers love having a sustainable farm on-site at their campus that grows ultra-fresh food for their employees. Who wouldn’t?
Second, we have created a proprietary technology platform that enables us to monitor and control the growing environment, as well as manage and track crop status, and farming operations. Our customers for this solution are small to mid-size farmers. Our technology is unique for a couple reasons. One – we can manage many farms and track what’s happening in terms of temperature, humidity, harvest sizes, nutrient levels, etc from a central location. And, we store all that data which allows us to optimize yields over time. Second – we have served food to employees in their company cafes, and therefore have had to pass Food Safety Audits. Our technology enables us to do fully digitized food safety certification, and is one of the few — if not the only — software platform that does both monitoring and control, as well as crop tracking and food safety certification. This is becoming increasingly important to our customers.
We absolutely have plans to expand. Our two largest farms are in Santa Cruz (Plantronics), and in Silicon Valley (a large public company where, each month, approximately 1,000 lbs of perfect basil is grown and served to employees via their cafe). We have recently made our technology available as a stand alone product, and that is now up and running at an academic institution, in an estate home in Woodside, and at a few different farms in Santa Cruz, Watsonville, and Salinas. We have only recently made our technology platform available to farmers and plan to focus on expanding significantly in this area over the coming year.
Installing micro-farms is straightforward. The utmost attention has been paid to designing them so that they flat pack and can be economically shipped and readily installed. There are two types of growing modules. They are either enclosed (more controlled environment for more sensitive crops like micro-greens or lettuces), or open (less expensive and suitable for crops like peppers, chard, kale, tomatoes, and eggplant). One central reservoir, which controls the water flow, nutrient dispensing, and growing environment, can be attached to up to 10 growing modules. These modules can be daisy-chained in a straight-line, around corners, or in a cluster. All that is needed in an installation location is a water source, electrical outlet, and WiFi.
Installing our technology platform on a farm requires our placing sensors on the crops, irrigation lines, or whatever it is that needs monitoring. We also often install a LAN (Local Area Network) if the WiFi is spotty at the farm location, which it often is. That data is then collected and, in many cases, connected to a “Doser” (hardware device that dispenses nutrients to the crops). Finally, everything is remotely controlled (with some necessary fail-safe features) in a Command Module, which can be viewed on any device, or via a large flat panel display located centrally on the farm. In addition, our farm management platform can be used to track farming operations, crops as they grow and are harvested, and yields, to both pass food safety certification, but also to enhance future crop sizes.
Cityblooms micro-farms use 90% less water than traditional farming, have virtually no food waste since food is grown on site and consumed shortly after harvesting, and do not require the burning of fossil fuels that happen when food travels hundreds of mikes to its ultimate destination. Furthermore, the food consumed at our in-site farms are much more nutritious, and bring people closer to their food, and a better understanding of issues around fresh food and sustainability.The Cityblooms technology platform gives insights into the growing environment in a way never before imagined, enabling the proliferation of sustainable farming methods that are so necessary for our society. Yields can be optimized, and healthy, safe nutrients can be used in the growing of food. Our planet will need to grow as much food in the next 40 years as it has in the last 10,000 years, making sustainable farming and food production an imperative for our society, and the future of our precious world.
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.
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)
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!