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Part One- In The Farm

Known for its food halls, craft beer, colorful murals, and vibrant music scene the trendy area of River North Art District in Denver, dubbed RiNo is about to up its cool factor and brighten the lights with a development that is the first of its kind in the city.  It’s an innovative concept of modern day ultra-urban farming meets everyday eatery.

Farm & Market

Meet Davis and Austin Breedlove, Colorado-born brothers on a mission to shorten the food miles from farm to fork and grow fresh healthy crops indoors year-round using ZipGrow Tower technology.

From hobbyist to horti-biz, the journey is just beginning for the Breedlove brothers.

“I always wanted to challenge industry and do something new,” explains Davis. The concept of this venture is just that. A new kid on the block!

Farm & Market is two businesses in one; half of the building will house a 3000-square foot ZipGrow hydroponic farm that will grow leafy greens and herbs in a controlled environment. 

The other half will be a dining area accommodating approximately 30 seated customers with a seasonal patio area outdoors.

“Our goal is to harvest each and every day to ensure that we have the highest quality, most nutritious product in the area.”

The area of RiNo was a former industrial hub, and their chosen location once housed the Potato Co-op for the city of Denver. While Davis and Austin won’t be growing any potatoes hydroponically they will be offering a high quality quick dine service of meals prepared from the produce grown in the farm, supported by locally sourced seasonal ingredients.

Transparency in their business is something that the Breedlove brothers feel passionate about. Nothing is more clear than glass; a transparent wall separating the dining area from the farm will allow customers to see the real-time workings of an urban farm under the glow of high-efficiency LED lights.

Installation of the farm will be happening this fall with a projected business opening date of Q4 2022 or early Q1 2023.

But let’s back up to how Davis and Austin got started.

Davis graduated from the University of Southern California with a focus on entrepreneurial studies. After several years working in the I.T. field and various moves around the United States, he wanted to lay down roots in his birthplace of Denver. 

Once settled he began to seriously think about starting an entrepreneurial business. He’d previously toyed around with some ideas and businesses including a microbrewery, but it wasn’t until he took up a home hobby with a small aeroponic system that it ignited an idea that just kept on growing! 

Davis invested in a two-tower 5ft Farm Wall™ system from ZipGrow Inc. which he found online and had immediate success growing fresh leafy greens in his garage “my wife went crazy over the lettuce. I thought, wow if I can produce something of this quality that lasts for so long, how could I share it with others?” 

And down the rabbit hole he went, researching systems and the controlled environment agriculture industry. Digesting as much information as he could.

His background in entrepreneurial studies served him well and he began building a business plan. 

His experience with the Farm Wall™ had been so positive that he decided on a ZipGrow system but there were other factors that also swayed his decision.  “I was also looking at viability. Electricity, harvesting, labor…ZipGrow was a no-brainer choice as it’s so modular, light, easy and quick to harvest. In terms of renting space, it just made sense to go with a truly vertical system that would equal less square footage.”

Once he decided to purchase a ZipFarm, Davis knew that he wanted to get some commercial farming experience firsthand. The ZipGrow team connected Davis with Farm Girl Greens, they operate a direct-to -consumer ZipFarm in Sennett, NY and were happy to share their experiences and knowledge.

“I was unfamiliar with the commercial system and I wanted to get some hands-on experience before the farm was installed so that I could make the most of the time I had before I hit the ground running” explains Davis.

He worked in their farm for three days which validated some of his ideas and gave him the reassurance he needed to follow through with his business plan. He also connected with Frank Fitts at Yellow Hammer Farms who operates a ZipFarm with a wholesale to restaurant business model “ he went out of his way to help” said Davis, “it’s a real community.”

His brother Austin meanwhile was training to be a chef at Escoffier School of Culinary Arts so it only seemed logical for the business to become a joint venture with foodservice and urban farm offerings.

Backed with some additional learning from UpStart University on hydroponic growing, the brothers sought investment from Breedlove Capital, the family-owned investment firm. They moved forward with sourcing a location and beginning the permit process with the City of Denver.

“UpStart (university) helped me hone in on crop types, it was very informative and helped shape some of my decisions on what to do and what not to do.” 

And the garage that started with a FarmWall became essentially a home testing center to try out some of those crops. Davis currently has a 90 Tower “intro to commercial” package installed in his garage and to date the brothers have donated over 9,000 oz of produce to Samaritan House, a local not-for-profit,that provides safe shelter and food for people in need in the Denver area. 

Their goal with Farm and Market is to be a neighborhood farm in an ultra-urban community. Davis determined that their target market would be residents of high-rise communities in the RiNo area which has a population of over 40,000 residents within two city blocks. 

“The market research was vital and was completed in the initial part of my business plan…the area is underserved in terms of providing fresh local produce direct to consumers”.

Denver is a booming metropolis and the brothers have their sights set on phase two and three expansions once the core of the business is well underway.

Both brothers are very mission-driven, and want to support other local producers. Phase two would incorporate selling other food products from area makers and producers such as cheese and honey. 

In phase three they see an opportunity to duplicate the business model and have future Farm & Market businesses in other heavily populated urban communities. They are open to the possibility of scaling up supply based on demand with a larger central warehouse to support the smaller farms, remaining true to a daily harvesting schedule and attention to pesticide free crops that will be an ethos from the start.

“The evolution of this is to produce an all around sustainable offering in an urban environment.”

Davis and Austin are excited to get their fresh produce into the hands of Denver residents. While they await permits for the building they will be operating a food truck business that will open in late spring / early summer. This will be the first time that ZipGrow Tower technology is powering a food truck business.

“The menu will be very farm focused and will feature chef crafted salads, greens and grain bowls, wraps, and sandwiches.” explains Austin. 

“These dishes will be packed with Davis’s daily harvested lettuces, greens, and herbs and we believe our customers will taste the freshness and quality in every bite.”

You can follow their journey on Instagram , the ZipGrow Blog and by following our social media channels.

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