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Plant Will Grow Food, Jobs in Duquesne

Entrepreneur: Construction on aquaponics project could begin within 60 days

By Jason A. Mignanelli
The Tube City Almanac
January 11, 2021
Posted in: Duquesne News

(Editor’s Note: This is the first of two planned articles. The second will explore community reaction to the project.)

An architect’s rendering shows what In City Farms’ Duquesne facility will look like. Construction is expected to begin soon. (Submitted image courtesy In City Farms)

Minnesota entrepreneur and businessman Glenn Ford is looking not only at creating jobs in Duquesne but also addressing the problem of food insecurity.

“Community engagement is much more than a marketing pitch for us,” said Ford, chief executive officer of In City Farms, which has recently purchased 25 acres of land at RIDC’s City Center of Duquesne, the industrial park where U.S. Steel’s Duquesne Plant operated until 1984.

“Our facility is being built literally a block away from where nearly 1,500 people waited in line at the local food bank during COVID,” Ford said in a recent interview with Tube City Almanac. “We want to be a part of fixing this food shortage.”

Construction on In City Farms’ new aquaponics facility is scheduled to begin in the next 60 to 90 days and will bring with it more than 200 jobs when complete and operating at its maximum capacity.

The estimated 200 or more jobs will range widely from positions requiring formal education to others that are more labor intensive, but all positions will be paid above the  minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Aquaponics is an organic and green production system that couples growing fish for food and then using their waste as fertilizer for plants. The basic goal is to maximize the amount of food that can be produced in one specific area while being safe for the environment.

It is the second aquaponics facility proposed in the Mon-Yough area. In 2018, McKeesport entrepreneur Juan Lacey announced he was seeking funding to build an aquaponic farm at that city’s industrial park.

Aside from the massive amounts of fresh fish and vegetables that will be produced at the new facility, Ford has a much larger vision for the citizens of Duquesne and surrounding neighborhoods.

Aquaponics is a technology that allows fresh vegetables and fish to be grown indoors for sale to restaurants and grocery stores. Minnesota-based In City Farms is proposing nearly 20 such facilities across the country, including in Duquesne and Erie, Pa. (Submitted image courtesy In City Farms)

A native of Chicago’s South Side, Ford can relate to the folks in Duquesne who are struggling to find good local jobs and fresh healthy food.

“The man or woman sitting up in Duquesne trying to figure out how to feed their family doesn’t care how many thousands of pounds of food we produce if it is all being shipped out to big restaurants and chains,” Ford said.

“That is why we will be opening our facility up for a fresh farmers market at least two days per week.”

Ford envisions a future for Duquesne where other businesses may want to join his cause.

“We only purchased 25 acres. I think there is something like 75 acres of usable land down there. My hope is that other businesses will want to join our movement and begin building down by us,” he said.

“I grew up in a neighborhood much like Duquesne out in Chicago. I believe that people like myself who have left those communities but still have some sensitivity to those environments have a responsibility to try to help those communities,” Ford said. “We are specifically looking for neighborhoods like Duquesne to build our facilities because we truly believe that we can help bring change and a better overall standard of living for the people.”

Although facilities similar to this one do exist in Europe and in other parts of the United States, Ford said none of them are of the scope of the one he’s proposing in Duquesne.

Many of the current facilities only perform part of the processes that will be operating at the Duquesne facility, he said.

In City Farms is planning for nearly 20 similar facilities to be built in the future. Another facility is in the beginning phases of negotiations in Erie, Ford said.

Jason A. Mignanelli is a freelance writer from Pittsburgh’s North Hills and a student at Duquesne University. He may be reached at mignanellij@duq.edu.

Originally published January 11, 2021.

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