Wurtsboro OKs 48-Acre Indoor Agriculture Complex

Wurtsboro OKs 48-Acre Indoor Agriculture Complex

Wurtsboro OKs 48-Acre Indoor Agriculture Complex

Sunday - April 2, 2017

By Pauline Liu 
Times Herald-Record 

WURTSBORO - A new project is underway that could make the village of Wurtsboro area famous for an important product: fresh, leafy green vegetables.

Last week, the seven-member Town of Mamakating Planning Board unanimously approved BE-ECO, LLC’s mixed-use indoor agriculture complex.

The farming project is to be located on 48 acres at McDonald Road and Route 209, just south of the Kohl’s Distribution Center.

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The company has acquired all of the local assets of Yukiguni Maitake Corp. of America.

Despite receiving planning board approval nearly nine years ago, the controversial Japanese mushroom plant planned for the location never got off the ground.

Edward Maier, 93, a neighbor of the site, said the project sounds like good news for the region.

“We need something around here,” said Maier. “All of the farms are gone, and when I was a kid, there were farms all along Route 209.”

Managing member Lex Heslin of BE-ECO, which is part of the Beautiful Earth Group, a Brooklyn-based sustainable energy company, said up to a dozen large greenhouses will be built on the site, followed by a one-story 44,100-square-foot “pilot” building, and eventually a larger, one-story 214,500-square-foot main facility.

The large facility will have numerous uses, including indoor growing or “controlled environmental agriculture.”

“It’s a new style of high-tech, indoor growing, which is important in a place like the state of New York where there are very short, unpredictable growing seasons,” said Heslin. “This project is very unique, and there is nothing like it out there.”

According to Heslin, no pesticides or GMOs (genetically modified organisms) will be used in the growing process.

Key to the marketing is not just the fact that it’s a locally grown product, but also that it uses fresh, mountain filtered water.

Heslin said his project will use far less water than the proposed mushroom plant would have and will be half the size.

He plans to market some of the vegetables locally and ship some to New York City.

The green vegetables are to be grown in a clean-energy environment using solar power, small vertical access wind turbines, geothermal energy and a large energy storage system.

Heslin described the construction project as worth “tens of millions of dollars.”

He expects work to begin next year.

In addition to the indoor farm, the buildings will provide space for research and development, processing, packaging and distribution, a marketing center and office space.

Mamakating Building Inspector Mary Grass, who is also on the planning board, called the project “very exciting.”

“It’s about making people healthier with fresh vegetables from our area,” said Grass.

“This is the sort of healthy project that the people of Mamakating want, and what they definitely don’t want is more big-box stores, ” said Mamakating Supervisor Bill Herrmann.

In addition to the agriculture complex, Heslin has also purchased the old Homowack resort outside of Spring Glen, with the goal of turning it into an “eco-resort” that would serve farm-to-table food, including locally grown vegetables.

He said he hopes to have the businesses up and running by 2020.

“Freshness is key to delicious produce,” said Heslin.

“If you’re getting it shipped from California or a foreign country, it’s not going to taste that good, and that’s something this project will correct,” he said.

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