For airline passengers who have grown weary of supposedly fresh airline food that taste like yesterday’s gym socks, things are looking up—way up, thanks to vertical farming.
On Singapore Airlines’ Newark, N.J., to Singapore flights starting in September, business- and first-class passengers will be served leafy greens harvested in AeroFarms’ former steel-mill-turned-vertical-farm. The produce will be taken 4½ miles to the airline’s catering kitchen and readied for outbound passengers in as little as a day.
Aeroponic farming makes it possible. “Aeroponic systems nourish plants with nothing more than nutrient-laden mist,” Brian Barth writes in Modern Farmer’s “How Does Aeroponics Work?” Roots “dangle in the air, where they are periodically puffed by specially designed misting devices.”
That mist contains “17 essential nutrients that plants need for optimal quality and growth,” Marc Oshima, founder and chief marketing officer at AeroFarms, said in an email.
Aeroponics means fewer worries about weather and pests, but AeroFarms closely monitors the light, temperature and humidity in its vertical racks in a farm that may represent the wave of the future.
Part of the appeal of this venture is the rapidity with which crops grow to maturity, sometimes in as little as 10 to 12 days. It’s estimated that AeroFarms’ one-acre New Jersey facility can produce the equivalent of 390 acres of traditionally grown produce.
Other upsides: These crops use less water, don’t require soil (a cloth medium, “made from post-consumer recycled plastic,” Oshima said, is used and reused) and don’t use pesticides.
The result will be “the world’s freshest airline food,” Anthony McNeil, director of food and beverage for the airline, said in a Singapore Airlines statement. “The only way to get fresher greens in flight is to pick them from our own garden.”