The Visionary Journey of Magki Farms with Agritecture — AGRITECTURE

 Source: https://www.gardenstead.com/what-is-an-urban-farm-and-why-are-they-so-important/
Written by: Niko Simos and Greg Alexander
February 23, 2024
In-Depth Insight into Greg Alexander’s Visionary Journey with Magki Farms
Greg, the visionary founder of Magki Farms, shared some insights into the farm’s location and plans for expansion. Situated an hour and a half south of New York City, the greenhouse finds its roots in Greg’s upbringing just north of New York City. Currently nestled in central New Jersey, the farm is strategically positioned along the eastern seaboard, approximately 45 minutes from Philadelphia.
While Greg expresses a commitment to not moving significantly further away, expansion is on the horizon. This expansion aims to provide Magki Farms with a larger footprint and increased capacity to accommodate a broader portfolio of produce and explore innovative growing techniques. Greenhouse farming operations require significant initial investment for setup, including costs for land, construction, and equipment.
Technology Background and Transition to Farming:
Greg’s journey unfolds against the backdrop of a technology-focused background. Armed with a degree in information systems and a five-year stint in the U.S. Army specializing in communications, Greg subsequently spent 13 years in Washington, D.C., delving into national security and defense consulting with a focus on research and development. His deep-rooted involvement in technology paved the way for a significant career shift into agriculture.
The transformative moment came with the birth of his identical twin daughters, Maggie and Kiley. Focused on their well-being, Greg’s attention shifted to the quality and origin of food. Uncovering the complexities of the U.S. agricultural infrastructure, Greg recognized the need for a better, more sustainable approach. This realization catalyzed the fusion of his technology background and passion for fresh, locally grown produce. 
Greenhouse farming can be more environmentally friendly than traditional farming, as it often uses less water and can be done year-round, reducing the need for long-distance transportation of produce, And it can yield up to 10 times the crop output of traditional farming, making it a potentially lucrative business.
Current Produce and Customer Base:
Magki Farms currently thrives on hydroponic living basil as its primary crop. Hydroponic farming allows for year-round cultivation. The basil is sold with the roots intact which significantly extends the shelf life and freshness of the herb.  
Beyond basil, the farm has expanded into several varieties of whole head lettuce and arugula, which appeal to a broad selection of consumers.
Some recent ventures include the cultivation of microgreens, tailored to adventurous individual cooks that are interested in their health benefits as well as the unique flavor profiles they offer. Greg emphasizes the farm’s commitment to experimenting with different crops and growing techniques to gain valuable insights for scaling up to a larger facility.
Even greenhouse owners often face challenges in marketing and selling their produce, particularly in competitive markets or during off-peak seasons,  Magki Farms ensures the delivery of freshly harvested produce within 24 hours. All stores Magki Farms delivers to are within 60 miles of the greenhouse, covering central New Jersey and the greater Philadelphia metro area.  Magki Farms sells its basil and lettuces under the Olive Creek brand and is found in ShopRite grocery stores, McCaffery’s Food Markets, Pennington Quality Market and Rastelli Market Fresh. 
Challenges Faced and Resilience Amidst Setbacks:
The journey of Magki Farms hasn’t been without its challenges. Nearly 60% of greenhouse owners faced financial challenges in the initial stages. Greg candidly shares the initial hurdle of finding the perfect location for the greenhouse. Zoning issues, infrastructure concerns, and the delicate balance of proximity to customers versus affordability all posed significant challenges. However, the farm’s resilience and strategic adaptability shine through, overcoming setbacks like the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the supply chain.
Future Plans and Innovation:
Looking ahead, Magki Farms harbors ambitious plans. Over 55% of greenhouse owners have plans to expand their business in the next five years,  and Greg envisions expanding his efforts in diversifying their customer base, increasing shelf space in existing grocery stores, and exploring new business lines such as supplying produce to local restaurants. The farm’s commitment to sustainability extends to packaging solutions, with ongoing efforts to strike a balance between sustainability and affordability.
 
Community Engagement, Education and Inspiring the Next Generation:
Beyond just farming, Magki Farms is deeply committed to community engagement and education. Greg emphasizes the importance of inspiring individuals to understand the origins of their food and the impact they can have on the environment. As the farm expands, Greg envisions an amplification of educational initiatives to foster a deeper appreciation for locally grown, fresh produce.
One of the most exciting aspects for Greg is the positive impact Magki Farms has on the community, especially in educating the next generation. Hosting local school students, engaging with science teachers, and conducting guest lectures for high schools, the farm aims to inspire curiosity and connect students with the real-world applications of environmental science and agriculture.
Positive Feedback and Sustainable Practices:
Magki Farms has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from customers who appreciate the transparency about the farm’s practices. The emphasis on local produce, knowing the farmer, and sustainable growing methods resonates well with consumers. Greg acknowledges the challenge of finding sustainable packaging solutions, considering both environmental impact and cost.
While acknowledging challenges in implementing certain sustainability initiatives due to leasing greenhouse space, Magki Farms explores options like rainwater harvesting for reuse and a shift to electric vehicles for deliveries. Greg envisions a more sustainable future for the farm, incorporating eco-friendly practices to reduce its environmental footprint.
Collaboration with Agritecture:
Greg reflects on his positive experiences collaborating with Agritecture in two key areas. Firstly, Agritecture played a pivotal role in talent acquisition, helping find skilled individuals during a critical juncture. Secondly, the collaboration extended to refining the business model, addressing scaling challenges, and identifying suitable suppliers for greenhouse expansion. Greg values the diverse expertise Agritecture brought to the table and looks forward to continued collaboration as Magki Farms enters its next phase of growth.Read MoreUrban Agriculture Blog Feed

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