“Ponics” Lab Sprouts In Westville

DAVID SEPULVEDA PHOTOProject Storefront’s quest to seed new businesses throughout New Haven took another step forward with the launch of Urban SEED [ ] Ponics Lab, a start-up business whose mission, in part, will be to grow green plants—and green ideas.

Owner Brad Armstong, whose business card reads, “Creative Entrepreneur,” was on hand to greet supporters and the curious at the opening of his new business located in the Lesley Roy Home Couture building at 847 Whalley Ave. in Westville Village.

On display were modified 55-gallon drums, cut in half and resting on a multilevel wood rig, part of an “Aquaponics” system that, when completed, will have the capacity to not only grow healthy micro-greens, but provide sustenance for edible fish growing in one of the drums.

A symbiotic system in which fish excretions fertilize plants, and plants in turn help purify the water for fish, the circulating unit holds potential for larger operations. For now, the proof-of-concept makes a great education tool signaling the promise of aquaponics and other forms of “ponics,” essentially, horticulture using soil-less mediums.

Armstrong said that the goal of his business is to help New Haven close the “food waste energy gap” whereby food and energy are used in a less wasteful manner; while using waste as a resource. In essence, “to make urban centers more sustainable.” Hydroponics-based gardening and farming will yield highly nutritious micro-greens, edible shoots of salad vegetables often used in better restaurants and other commercial markets.

Part of the Urban Seed business plan includes a contractual relationship with other businesses. The company will provide customized, sustainable systems and a plan for lowering building energy costs with a smaller, more efficient energy footprint.

Project Storefronts Program Manager Elinor Slomba, who attended Saturday’s business launch, pointed to another display—a glimmering, colorful collection of repurposed home accessories and decorative items in a show case at the rear of the Urban SEED [ ] Ponics Lab. All items are the creations of Alysia Southern, another entrepreneur on deck to receive her own, no-cost storefront soon. Billed as “Vintage rehab & eco-friendly couture,” Southern’s business features “barrage custom interiors” and interior decorating and design.

The “no cost” aspect of Project Storefronts-sponsored enterprises, along with technical and management support for creative entrepreneurs, is aimed at facilitating small business development.  The program is made possible through the auspices of New Haven’s Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism, partnering with the Economic Development Corporation and the State’s Department of Economic And Community Development Office of the Arts.

An essential component of the business development program is Project Storefront’s ability to pair vacant storefront owners with the dreams of qualified entrepreneurs.  Property owners waive rent and other fees for business start-ups for a period 90 days or more. In the case of Urban SEED [ ] Ponics lab, property owner Lesley Roy, an entrepreneur whose home couture business has flourished in Westville for years, provided the free space. Roy said that project Storefronts “offers awesome opportunities for young entrepreneurs. Brad is special and has a unique idea.”

Pausing, perhaps to reflect on her own business experience, Roy noted, “You need to have a shingle.”

For more information about Urban SEED [ ] Ponics Lab contact Brad Armstrong here.

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posted by: HewNaven on March 26, 2014  1:02pm

Hydroponics-based gardening and farming will yield highly nutritious micro-greens, edible shoots of salad vegetables often used in better restaurants and other commercial markets.

Hydroponics typically requires energy for heat and lighting and produces environmentally harmful waste from all the nutritional supplements required to simulate soil nutrition. Aquaponics, at least attempts to mitigate the waste produced in traditional hydroponics, and that may be Armstrong’s intention, but the article does not make it clear.

posted by: Bill Saunders on March 26, 2014  2:30pm

In the initial Project Storefronts ‘plan’, expansion of the program was to next proceed to the Fairhaven and Dixwell Neighborhoods.

No mention of Westville.

While I like the idea of this project, it seems that Westville is doing pretty well with its own community development. 

It is already a safe, walkable, arty little village.

These Resources need to be focussed elsewhere.

posted by: Emily G on March 26, 2014  3:07pm

Congrats Brad! This is an exciting concept and I wish you all luck and success. I love seeing green businesses take-off in New Haven, makes me proud to call this city home.

posted by: Truth Avenger on March 26, 2014  6:37pm

@Bill Saunders. This particular storefront has been vacant for a long time. There are several other prominent storefronts that have also been vacant for a considerable amount of time in Westville. The perception that Westville (and East Rock for that matter)don’t need more economic development, that they don’t continue to need stabilization and support, is not grounded in economic reality. This program, as I’m sure you understand, is as much about the aspirations of the creative entrepreneurs as it is about creating walkable communities. It’s about creating opportunity for them. To that end, this is a great fit for the Ponics Lab and for Westville. As long as Ms. Roy is willing to offer her property, and the entrepreneur believes that the space works for him, we should applaud such a partnership regardless of where it happens in the city. The goodwill, the hard work and vision that is being explored in Westville, does not rule out opportunities in other communities, nor does it displace resources available to those communities. This business of neighborhood envy, of pitting one neighborhood against another,does a disservice to all.

posted by: Bill Saunders on March 26, 2014  8:16pm

Truth Avenger,

The empty storefronts argument is lame at best.  Westville is a self-styled success.

Like most government programs, Project Storefronts has gone off the plantation, into it’s own self-serving needs.

I think this project would be great somewhere in Fairhaven, in association with City Seed, Common Ground High School,  and the people that wanted to turn a public park into private gardens.

Looks to me like somebody is looking for a brand,,,,

A fluffy attempt at best…..

posted by: A. Thought on March 27, 2014  11:41pm

Bill….Okay.  So, under the auspices of Project Storefront, there’s this entrepreneur who has a great idea to start an Urban SEED [] Ponics Lab to grow green plants and green ideas.  And there’s this vacant storefront whose owner is willing to help promote this business by waiving rent and other fees for some period of time.  What an absolutely wonderful opportunity!  And you have a problem with the location? 
Not only that, but maybe, just maybe, the “seed” will be planted in this community and will spread to other New Haven communities where other entrepreneurs and other vacant storefront owners will be similarly motivated to find their counterparts through Project Storefront.  And, you have a problem with the location?