Vertical Farming Eatery

vertical farming eatery

Market and Eatery With On-Site Vertical Hydroponic Farm Is Coming to RiNo This Summer

Vertical Farming Eatery | Molly Martin |

IMAGE: Founder Davis Breedlove has been fascinated by plants since childhood. Molly Martin

Orange Thyme, Black Magic kale, Pomegranate Crunch romaine. These aren’t your typical grocery store herbs and greens. “My favorite is Mrs. Burns’ basil,” says Davis Breedlove. “It smells and tastes like Froot Loops.”

All of these and much more are growing inside 2401 Larimer Street, a space set to open to the public by the end of July as Farm and Market, a new restaurant and market combo that’s reimagining access to fresh produce. “The whole premise is to nourish folks with our high-quality food. … No one has ever done an ultra-urban farm that sells directly to neighbors.” 

While another urban indoor farm, Altius, is just two blocks away, it primarily sells to restaurants and markets, and isn’t open to the public for shopping. “No one is really doing what we’re doing,” Breedlove adds, “which is kind of scary.”

But it’s also exciting, especially now that the first test rounds of plants are growing on Farm and Market’s 1,100 vertical hydroponic towers, all of which can be seen from the dining and shopping portion of the space through a glass wall. “We care deeply about doing things right,” Breedlove says. “Transparency is the biggest thing for me. I greatly believe in truthfulness, just being real. And I’m not a marketer. So I figured, what would be a better way to show the truth of what we’re doing here? And it keeps us in check, too.”

This idea has been three years in the making, but Breedlove’s passion for flora goes back much further. “I’ve always loved plants. Ever since I was a kid, I was digging up my parents’ backyard, planting things,” he recalls.

He and his brother, Austin, were both born in the Mile High City, but when he was seven years old, his parents decided to move the family to Austin, Texas. “Ever since then, we’ve been trying to get back to Denver. We love it here,” Breedlove says.

After getting a degree in business administration from the University of Southern California, though, his first job took him to Salt Lake City. “I learned to code there,” he says of the role, which was part data engineer, part database architect and part business operations. “That was my career, and I was good at it, but I just love plants. … I always found that whether it was in my career or just gardening, I found the most satisfaction helping people.”

With his home garden, “I didn’t eat most of the things I grew,” he says. “I’d bring it into the office and give it to neighbors, and just seeing their smiles, it’s wonderful. So I always wanted to do something that was more than myself. And I wanted to help folks.”

A year after his brother finally returned to Colorado, Breedlove followed. “Austin is a trendsetter,” he jokes. Breedlove and his wife moved into a house near Evergreen, and “I started growing things, but the herd of elk mowed it all down, and it made me pretty sad,” he says. “So I started growing hydroponically for fun because my wife loves lettuce, and I’d never grown hydroponically.”

Breedlove quickly realized that “because the environmental factors are so perfect for the plant, the texture, the flavor, the nutrients are so much better than store-bought,” he says. “Also, it lasts for weeks in your fridge versus a few days. I realized, ‘All right, this is amazing. And it’s a lot more fun than coding. How do I bring that joy to other people?'”

An ultra-urban farm was the initial concept. “Then we realized, that’s a lot of produce,” Breedlove recalls. His brother attended the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder and was working at Root Down, “so we put our skills together and we figured, why not nourish people with really high-quality made meals and high-quality produce?”

Breedlove landed on the Larimer Street location for a number of reasons. With a lack of grocery stores in the area, there’s a need for convenient access to fresh produce. Plus, people living in the RiNo neighborhood “care about the environment, and they care about their bodies,” he explains.

Which means that they should care about why this produce is different. Farm and Market’s hydroponic setup uses 95 percent less water than traditional farming, and plants are nourished with an ideal balance of minerals — and nothing else. The whole operation is run by a program that Breedlove built using his coding skills.

Farm and Market is also 100 percent wind-powered in order to counteract the fact that “the biggest knock on hydroponics is the pull of energy,” he notes. 

Because of how the supply chain works, most grocery store produce is around 21 days old when it hits the shelves, Breedlove explains, and produce loses about “6 to 8 percent of its nutrients a day.” Here, it will be sold the day it’s harvested, so not only will you get a healthier product, but it will last longer — “up to four weeks in the fridge if you store it properly,” he adds. 

While all of this equals a better, more sustainable product overall, it won’t come at an outrageous premium. “We want to bring this to the people, because we’re doing this for the neighborhood. It’s not just about trying to get the highest price point; it’s about trying to do the right thing,” Breedlove says, adding that neighbors — which is how he refers to customers — can expect to pay only slightly more than they typically would at the grocery store. 

Farm and Market is also working with local organizations Samaritan House and Denver Food Rescue to make sure neighbors in need have access to its fresh produce. 

A few tables are scattered throughout the market part of the space, which includes a pass-through refrigerator directly connected to the farm, “so farmers don’t have to leave,” Breedlove explains. “And it also reduces the possibility of contamination.”

Herb towers will be taken out of the farm every morning and displayed behind one of the checkout stations to be harvested on demand, “like a butcher shop for herbs,” Breedlove says. And because “we want to be sustainable and do things right to the best of our abilities,” Farm and Market is going to try omitting clamshell packaging for its produce. 

The market will also be stocked with add-ons such as dressings, croutons, pestos and soups. 

The dining options will be focused on fresh, healthy fare that can be served quickly. “Our goal is to be able to produce a meal in ninety seconds,” Breedlove says. Bowls and salads will be available with proteins like chicken and fish for lunch and dinner; Farm and Market may also be open earlier, offering breakfast items such as smoothies. 

“My brother made some salads while menu testing, and it was the craziest feeling, where you feel really full, but you’re energized, like you just had a Red Bull or something,” Breedlove says. “I’m excited for other folks to be able to experience that.” 

They’ll also experience a space loaded with varieties of lettuce, arugula, kale, microgreens, Swiss chard, watercress, herbs of all kinds and more. “The first step is leafy greens,” Breedlove says. “The next thing we’ll do will be fruiting crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers. Maybe berries. I love berries. Hopefully, one day it’s a full produce section of the best local produce you can get.”

If the concept proves to be a success, expect to see more Farm and Markets sprouting up. “We absolutely want to do more, because we feel like we’re making a positive impact,” Breedlove says. “Less water is being used. People are eating healthier. That’s our goal.”

And one day, this idea could grow to even greater heights. “My pie-in-the-sky dream goal, twenty years from now,” Breedlove confesses, “is to have a skyscraper, and every floor grows something different, and it’s enough food to sustain an entire city.”

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