Urban farming is one of the fastest growing trends in today’s agricultural industry.
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, urban farms provide food to roughly 700 million city-residents worldwide; nearly one-quarter of the world’s urban population.
Broome County is one of the many places on the urban-farming map with Infiniti Greens, a startup growing microgreens in the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator. Infiniti Greens, founded in April, is the result of the efforts of an ambitious Binghamton University senior. Joe Rigoroso, a Business major and Environmental Studies minor from Long Island decided to combine his business acumen with his interests in environmental sustainability and living things to start the company.
It all began in January when Joe started becoming dissatisfied with the quality of greens at local grocery stores that quickly went bad and didn’t taste fresh, prompting him to look for alternatives to gain these essential nutrients. This brought him to microgreens.
A microgreen is a seedling of a vegetable or herb usually harvested in about a week. The utilization of microgreens originated on the West Coast in the 1990’s when chefs started using them as a garnish for their dishes. These baby plants then became integral to the vegan movement, eventually making their way to the East Coast–including Broome County.
After researching urban farming and seeing how easy and sustainable growing microgreens is (they can be grown indoors year-round), Joe started doing it himself with Chinese food containers and a wooden rack in his house on Binghamton’s South side.
The microgreens’ popularity with his friends, in addition to a business plan competition that was part of an entrepreneurship class he was taking, sparked the thought that Joe should create a business from this new way of life. He used the cash prize he won from the competition to set up Infiniti Greens’ infrastructure when he returned to Binghamton three weeks after summer break began.
Bringing back the ‘milkman’ concept, Joe spent the summer delivering his fresh microgreens to customers’ homes and restaurants downtown like NezunToz, Citrea Bar and Restaurant, Lost Dog Cafe and Burger Monday’s.
Around the same time, Joe realized the demand for his microgreens was outgrowing his at-home setup. He needed to relocate to a bigger space better suited for daily tending to the greens and the company’s continued growth. The Koffman Southern Tier Incubator was just the place. He applied in July and by early August, was set up in a first floor wet lab.
Joe organically grows the company’s microgreens in the Incubator without any pesticides or sprays. From sunflowers to peas to cilantro to radishes and more, Infiniti Greens has a variety of robust, nutrient-dense and beneficial products. According to researchers, microgreens, like cilantro and radish, have up to forty times more vital nutrients than their fully-grown counterparts. Furthermore, USDA Researcher Gene Lester, PhD has stated that the nutrients in microgreens “are extremely important for skin, eyes, and fighting cancer,” in addition to countless other health benefits.
Despite how nutritious they are, people’s unfamiliarly with microgreens, as well as having to take the time to educate their market, has been a barrier for Infiniti Greens to overcome. It’s also “the most satisfying part of the business” though according to Joe. He is proud to be part of the “culture shift,” here and nationwide, “towards local foods.”
There have been other challenges along the way as well. Navigating how to start an LLC in New York State, creating an operating agreement on his own, and balancing time between growing/managing the business, school work and extracurricular activities are all challenges this student has had to overcome the last few months.
Through it all though, Joe has remained humble and recognized our area–especially the Incubator–as integral to Infiniti Greens’ success. Joe is beyond “grateful to the Koffman family, Broome County and [Binghamton] University for having him [in the Incubator] and for having a place where businesses can flourish in Binghamton.”
Infiniti Greens is sure to flourish even more after Joe graduates in May and can dedicate his full time and effort to the business.
He wants to develop a sustainable-enough model to expand somewhere downtown in the coming years, as he intends to stay and invest in Broome County far past his graduation.
“There’s always that stigma of the university students just coming here and leaving, but hopefully I can break that stigma by growing Infiniti Greens here,” Joe said.