Ecopia Farms Brings Gourmet Urban Farming to San Leandro
Across the street from the soon-to-be “Tech Campus” lies a new addition to the unwavering pulse of innovation that keeps San Leandro in a forward trajectory. This new endeavor has the attention of gourmet restaurants in the Bay Area, and if you visit one, you may find an unexpected ingredient on your plate: locally grown, organic micro-greens.
It may seem counter-intuitive to farm micro-greens and herbs in an arid environment such as the East Bay, but founders of Ecopia Farms —Koichi Nishimura and Sam Araki— found a way to grow more than 60 varieties of baby lettuces, greens, micro-herbs, and edible flowers indoors. Ecopia Farms grows its produce under LED lights in a controlled indoor environment that reduces both energy and water use. In fact, in 15,000 square feet, Ecopia can yield the equivalent crop of a 30-acre traditional farm while using 97% less water. “I believe we can do even better than that,” hopes CEO Jim Spencer.
Currently in the final phase of permitting, Ecopia should be ready to commence business on October 1. San Leandro was chosen as a location for a variety of reasons. “The outdoor climate in San Leandro is very good,” says Spencer. “There is a night-time, natural cooling that enables us to limit the use of air conditioning to cool the farm.” But more than that, Spencer finds that what makes San Leandro attractive is its central location, helping the company cast a wide distribution net. “Within 45 minutes you can drive to the South Bay, the peninsula, San Francisco, or even Napa,” Spencer says.
Ecopia Farms is making a significant investment in this location, with about ten jobs on the immediate horizon and hopes to double that number as the farm expands. The jobs consist mainly of farmers, but there is also a need for drivers and administration staff. Spencer hopes to hire locally, and expresses joy when describing his interactions with City staff during the development process. “When you introduce a business that is new and innovative, there can easily be some push-back due to the ‘unknown’ factor,” says Spencer, “But, I experienced none of that from the City.” Ecopia’s team was also impressed with the availability of modern, usable real estate, further establishing that San Leandro is an ideal location for this venture.
When expanded to the full 30,000 square feet, the San Leandro location can bring the equivalent of 60 acres or more of CCOF and USDA certified organic gourmet greens to the East Bay, grown from seed in custom organic soils. This high value product is most welcome to local restauranteurs and catering companies, fostering new gastronomical inspiration and creativity. Case in point: thanks to their Head of Sales, Jonathan Pettingill, Ecopia Farms already supplies 80 Bay Area restaurants and caterers—a number that is sure to grow as word spreads. The farm is also a most welcome addition to San Leandro, where the base of specialty food and beverage companies is steadily expanding.