BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Steve Domyan ran a hand gently over the top of some baby arugula growing in a tray under an array of reddish and blue lights.
“The magic is in the lights,” he said with a wide smile. “It’s really cool.”
In a way, the sun never sets in the old factory building on River Street in Bridgeport, where Domyan and his wife and business partner, Nancy, have started the most unlikely of startups. Inside and up the stairs, the Norwalk couple created Metrocrops, pairing farmer’s know-how with state-of-the-art technology to grow a veritable garden of mini kale, lettuce and arugula.
In fact, if you’ve dined at Shelton’s Il Palio or Bridgeport’s venerable Ralph-n-Rich’s, you’ve probably tasted some of their tender greens, a staple of several area farmers markets and, more recently, the upscale Fairfield market The Pantry.
The Domyans incorporated the business in 2010, making the contacts they would need to figure out whether it was doable along the way. By 2011, they applied for and won a USDA research grant and rented space from the University of Connecticut to hone their idea for an urban, high density, indoor farm.
A lot of trial and error led them to the ideal growing system where everything from the filtered water to the pitch of the growing trays and the timing of harvesting was well thought out.
“It turns out most vegetable plants prefer a 24-hour day,” said Domyan, a former applications engineer.
The Domyans found their plants looked better, grew faster and were higher in antioxidants than plants grown outside or in other conditions.
They also found they had a second business in selling growing units, which have been used in Connecticut schools for agricultural education.
But the focus at Metrocrops is on producing the healthiest, tastiest greens they can, using certified organic seeds. The business uses no pesticides or herbicides and the plants are hand-harvested, rinsed and packaged under stringent guidelines.
The Domyans think their success story should be an example to others looking to create a start-up in Bridgeport.
“We’ve got all of these buildings we don’t know what to do with,” Domyan said. “You can do this in an urban area in a building nobody wants. That’s pretty neat!”
Learn more about Metrocrops on their website .
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.