These Google Food employees are using high-tech, dirt-free shipping containers to grow organic herbs
Google’s Mountain View Googleplex headquarters is famous for feeding its nearly 20,000 employees free breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
When it comes to feeding a small town, it’s not as easy as you might think from outside. Google has a complete “Good Food” team that manages around 190 cafes and feeds more than one hundred thousand meals every day. Google has around 30 cafes at Mountain View Googleplex, which is managed by the Google Team.
Google started this project with a purpose to serve energetic food to their employees.
The interesting thing about the Good Food project is that they don’t just purchase and cook. Instead, they grow organic food while using high-tech, sustainable ways. Google Food reveals that Google has also hired some top notch, organic gardeners, to manage their gardens
One such program is called “Farm to Table.” Google has a lot of gardens, but this program looks for ways to educate people about the food industry. One highlight of that program is a shipping container at the Googleplex called the Leafy Green Machine. Take a look:
Meet Christa Essig, global program manager of Google’s Farm to Table program (pictured right) and Ben Kutchur, a sustainable horticulture specialist at Google and organic gardener. Before Google, Essig worked at the CDD, crafted food policy for public health organizations, and has a background in nutrition. Kutcher was a student and organic gardener.
Despite Essig’s impressive credentials, it still took five interviews before she landed the job at Google. It’s a big job. “The Farm to Table program at Google is about engaging Googlers and our partners about where food comes from, how it’s grown and why that matters,” she says. The goal is to have people learn about “growing food, or technology and food, or innovations in food.” They are standing in front of one of those technologies, the “Leafy Green Machine,” a hydroponic garden in a shipping container made by Freight Farms.
Freight Farms is based in Boston.
The idea for food education and technology programs at Google came from several people. Michiel Bakker, who heads the Global Food team, was one of them. He came to Google in 2012 from the hospitality industry.
Google’s executive chef Scott Giambastiani was also responsible for the idea…
…along with executive chef and operations program manager Quentin Topping, who is also known for supporting local, highly sustainable seafood practices and an annual seafood fair at Google.
The Leafy Green Machine is quietly parked behind this sand volleyball pit at the Googleplex. There are lots of organic gardens at the Googleplex, but this demonstrates an organic garden that can be placed in a city, in cold climates, or even in places where the soil has been contaminated, Ben Kutchur says.
The Leafy Green Machine uses a refurbished refrigerated shipping container and pink LED lights to grow food.
The plants grow sideways.
The plants are stacked in rows of vertical hydroponic shelves, meaning they grow without soil. The water is piped in above them. To access the plants, the shelves are removable. In this way, one shipping container can grow hundreds of plants, as Kutchur, demonstrates.
Google uses the Leafy Green Machine to grow herbs like sage, thyme, and many varieties of basil. It takes about 3 weeks to go from seed to harvest. One shipping container provides enough herbs to supply the Googleplex for a week’s worth of meals.
In addition to programs that show Googlers how food is grown, employees can also take free cooking classes. This classroom is located at the back of one of Google’s cafes.
Cooking classes are one of the most popular perks among employees, Google tells us. The class the day we visited was full.
If you don’t want to cook your own lunch in a class, the free food menu is very appealing. There’s always chicken, fish, beef, and vegetarian options. There’s almost always some Asian-inspired entrees and salads as well. Two lunch options on this day are grilled flank steak salad with jalapeño ranch dressing, and blueberry, mint and almond salad.
We ordered the grilled chicken and salsa salad and the blueberry, mint and almond salad. They were so yummy we ate most of our lunch before remembering to take the picture.
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