Huge greenhouse project moves ahead with financing


By Jim Poole

Out of sight, out of mind for three years, the giant greenhouse project planned for SUNY Cobleskill property is still in the works.
Louis Ferro, president and chairman of Empire State Greenhouse, said his company is working on financing for the vertical food-producing greenhouse.
The project was first announced in February 2019. Plans call for the 300,000-square-foot greenhouse to be built on the Coby Farm owned by the college.
It’s intended to produce vegetables year-round, run on renewable energy, provide opportunities for students––and create 150-plus full-time jobs besides, Mr. Ferro said Friday.
But as with many projects, COVID forced a detour.
“We were impacted by COVID,” Mr. Ferro said. “The state told us to stand down, and we couldn’t even get on the campus” when the pandemic shut down in-person contact.
The greenhouse will cost $160 million, though about half of that comes from state and federal sources, Mr. Ferro said.
“We’re in the process of finalizing our financing,” he added. “Once the financing’s done, we’ll start as soon as possible.”
He couldn’t give a timeline.
Mr. Ferro described the jobs as “not manual labor but highly technical” and could be available to SUNY Cobleskill students.
Although the concept has been described as innovative, aspects of the project “have been around for years,” Mr. Ferro said.
The growing system, vertical greenhouses, lighting and biodigesters are all common technology, he said.
“We’re just assembling the pieces of the puzzle in a way to grow food efficiently,” Mr. Ferro said.
Besides working with college officials, ESG has also reached out to others. Nan Stolzenburg of Wright, experienced in community and environmental planning, was named to ESG’s advisory board last month.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Ms. Stolzenburg said of the greenhouse. “It’s an exciting opportunity for the Cobleskill area.
“I’m just learning, and my role will be to bring a local perspective to the project.”