Lots of people are into growing their own food these days, and it looks like restaurants are trying to catch up too. Hollywood restaurant ‘Tender Greens’, for instance, is filled with vertical gardens, and everything they grow is served on the menu!
“We’ve always been interested in growing on-site,” said Erik Oberholtzer, co-founder of the California-based fast food chain. “But all of our restaurants are in high-density urban areas, so aside from a few planter boxes we thought there was nothing beyond decorative that we could ever do.”
But when Erik and the other founders started researching vertical gardens, they came across the concept of aeroponic towers from Green City Farms. These towers are basically plant-filled poles that can easily blend in, pretty much anywhere. So they decided to get some for their Hollywood location.
“They’re perfect for our patios because there’s not much energy need and the water usage is miniscule,” Erik explained. “We can grow 44 plants per tower. In Hollywood we have 24 towers, and they’re just popping with all kinds of fruits and vegetables.” The produce is harvested once a week, and used to prepare a daily special.
Understandably, the food grown in the towers cannot be used to prepare every single dish, given the high volume of diners. And the poles cannot be used indoors yet, because of the large amount of energy required for lighting. Which is why Tender Greens only has outdoor poles on the patio.
But the concept is a great example of companies shifting to more eco-friendly and efficient means of farming, especially as California’s drought worsens. Reports suggest that hydroponic farming needs as low as 10 percent of the water required to grow food in a traditional field.
Although they aren’t able to grow all the food they need, the restaurant’s founders hope to source as much 60 percent of their produce from aeroponic or hydroponic systems. In fact, Erik himself has installed a new aeroponic system at Scarborough Farms outside LA, which supplies most of the company’s vegetables. He also hopes to work with startups that use hydroponics indoors.
“We’re all in on controlled environment agriculture,” said Erik. “This sets the occasion for us to have a conversation with our guests around the future of farming and the role that we intend to play in that.”
Photos: Tender Greens