June 30, 2020 was an exciting day for local Connecticut organization, New Opportunities. After years of planning, ground was broken on a new hydroponic farm project called "CT Food4Thought" that is going to bring fresh, nutritious, pesticide free food to local food banks, shelters, soup kitchens, and schools to communities throughout Connecticut. In addition to that, the farm will also supply retail grocery stores and co-ops with fresh produce as a way to generate income for programs through selling the produce grown.
New Opportunities partnered with Controlled Environment Agriculture Technology company AmHydro of Arcata, CA. The groundbreaking marked the start of three greenhouses, containing AmHydro’s soilless hydroponic growing systems, being constructed in partner with Borghesi Engineering with plans to expand up to 12 greenhouses in the future. AmHydro VP Joe Swartz and the Commercial Growing Team at AmHydro will provide on-going support and grower training to ensure a successful project and economic sustainability.
New Opportunities is a social service organization that serves marginalized and low-income communities throughout Connecticut. The mission of the farm is to provide entry level, safe, clean “green jobs” to members of the community. Specifically, CT Food4Thought wants to offer these job opportunities to those with developmental disabilities, those who have been previously incarcerated, and those who are unemployed as a way to provide a path to higher level employment opportunities in both this industry and others, such as: the field of nutrition, food safety, environmental management, and horticulture.
Right: Dr. James H. Gatling, Ph.D, CEO of New Opportunities, speaks prior to breaking ground.
New Opportunities Foundation had a vision and worked directly with hydroponic industry leader AmHydro to develop the growing system and production methods. This hydroponic farm will use 90% less water than conventional field agriculture and will be able to produce more than 10 times the amount of produce that traditional growing methods yield. The farm will also be able to operate year-round due to the environmental controls inside the greenhouse that can simulate the perfect growing conditions for plants even in the dead of winter. This will allow people in Connecticut to have access to fresh, local produce all year in comparison to the normal outdoor growing season in the area that lasts approximately 120 days.
AmHydro is partnering with New Opportunities on their new project CT Food4Thought and is excited to continue to be a part of and support the project through providing training to members of New Opportunities and members of the community.
Bill Rybczyk, Director of Research, Planning, and Development for New Opportunities Inc,. said: “We’re planting seeds for lettuce and other herbs, but we’re also planting seeds into people’s lives, and they can then take that, and they begin to grow and that impacts not only their lives, but their children’s lives and their grandchildren’s lives into the future. That’s what this project is all about."