Babylon Micro-Farms cruise liner pilot is world first at-sea farm, amid company growth
Cruise Ship Micro Farm | Sean Jones |
The Scotts Addition-based maker of automated hydroponic micro farms recently installed the first three at-sea farms on one of the world’s biggest cruise ships. Babylon Mirco-Farms has more than doubled the number of farms in circulation since moving to the city in 2021.
Babylon had three farms installed inside of MSC Cruises’ newest ship the World Europa, called one of the most anticipated cruise ships of 2022 by U.S. News and World Report. MSC contacted Babylon three years ahead of the ship’s unveiling with plans to have the farms inside one of its on-board restaurants.
Three micro-farms went into into the space for MSC’s restaurant concept branded the Chef’s Garden Kitchen, which was built specifically to accommodate the farms into its design.
“Installing Micro-Farms on a commercial cruise ship is a great demonstration of how micro-farms are reimaging the supply chain for fresh produce. Wherever the ship sails they’ll have their own supply of fresh produce, all year round, no matter the climate outside,” said Alexander Olesen, co-founder of Babylon Micro-Farms. “This is just another example of how our Micro-Farms are creating unique indoor farming experiences in places that no one thought were possible.”
The restaurant’s menu was designed by Swedish Michelin-starred chef Niklas Ekstedt, which focuses on natural ingredients and a “farm-to-ocean ethos.”
“We’re particularly excited about the opportunity to grow fresh herbs and garnishes for Michelin Star Chef Niklas Eksedt in this world first installation of a vertical farm aboard a commercial cruise liner,” Olesen said.
Babylon’s automated farms aboard the World Europa will primarily grow micro-greens used as flavor additives and garnishes. The company’s key innovation is the creation of a technology system that enables its own staff to remotely control light, water and nutrients for its systems. Farms often grow edible plants li
The piloted project with MSC, an Italian global cruise liner, has led the company through regulations around the export of seeds and food overseas, opening the door for more international growth.
Since first coming to Richmond from Charlottesville in 2021, the company increased its number of farms in circulation from 40 to more than 130.
Babylon’s list of partnerships have traditionally been in senior living facilities, offices and higher education. This past year they added IKEA, which has a pilot in its Charlotte N.C. location, LinkedIn, Aramark and Neiman Marcus, among others.
2022 also marked the launch of Babylon’s newest product, Galleri, which was used in the World Europa. Galleri has the same amount of growing space as the previous growing tank, but is about a foot-and-a-half narrower. It also uses 55% less plastic, has updated technology and an updated design. Trays inside the farm are now machine washable, reducing cleaning time from about an hour to 30 minutes.
Babylon also expanded its Scotts Addition headquarters, adding 10,000 square feet of manufacturing space at 3407 Carlton St., a building joined to its corporate office. That has nearly tripled the company’s capacity to manufacture new farms. It also doubled its number of manufacturing employees while adding some in sales and customer support, for a total around 40 workers.
A spokesperson for the company said that upcoming growth areas are seen with current partners, through the conversion of pilot programs into farms at more locations, as well as expansion in K-12 markets