MetroCrops, LLC was founded in the spring of 2010 to be the technology leader in controlled environment growing. MetroCrops’ Urban, High Density, Indoor (UHDI) growing concept is based upon developing the knowledge base and equipment to grow food in empty or underutilized industrial space in the middle of urban centers in the post-industrial northeast.
The jobs created by UHDI growing facilities will be permanent, full-time, 12-month a year jobs paying above minimum wage. Because of the urban location and nature of these jobs, they cannot be outsourced to other countries.
And, the unfulfilled demand for year round, locally grown produce in the northeast makes this project both timely and innovative. Small-to-medium sized UHDI “farms” will be able to fulfill this need in a never-before tried way using technology.
Through a Phase I SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) grant from NIFA / U.S. Dept of Agriculture, MetroCrops began a 2-year study of the feasibility of growing lettuce hydroponically under LED lights indoors in converted, old factory buildings.
MetroCrops’ grow lab is located on the Depot Campus at the University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT). MetroCrops has been a member of UConn’s Technology Incubator Program (TIP) since 2011.
Additionally, using a grant from Connecticut Innovations, MetroCrops was able to evaluate the potential of using a UTC (United Technologies) fuel cell to provide electricity, heat and CO2 for the grow chamber.
During 2012 MetroCrops demonstrated that the UHDI growing concept is commercial viable. As part of the USDA grant, taste testing and test marketing showed an overwhelming consumer acceptance of the salad greens grown in the Storrs grow lab. The company also continued to develop its proprietary grow lights and hydroponic techniques.
Through another grant from Connecticut’s Technology Talent Bridge program, MetroCrops hired its first five paid interns. These interns worked on the market research tasks and developed a unique financial model for the company.
In September 2013 MetroCrops was awarded a Phase II SBIR grant from NIFA / USDA. This generous grant will enable the continuation of MetroCrops’ UHDI growing research.
MetroCrops is in the process of moving to Bridgeport, CT where its first full-size UHDI grow module will be built. In early 2014 this module will be a commercial “farm” as well as the site of the continuing SBIR research.
Trays of Lettuce at Different Stages of Growth
Baby Dwarf Blue Kale Grown Under MetroCrops LED Grow Lights
Baby Mesclun Mix Appears Pink Under MetroCrops LED Grow Lights
Artist's Rendering of an Aisle of Grow Rigs in Bridgeport, CT Facility
MetroCrops Baby Mesclun Mix of Lollo Rossa, Galactic, Simpson, and Waldmann's
Artist's Rendering of Next Generation Grow Rig