Patrons will only find one ingredient on the menu when visiting the recently-opened storefront in Greenwood Heights — an edible algae called spirulina, which the owners claim to have perfected better than the flavor many consumers are accustomed to.
“It is super nutritious, much more delicious, and also it is extremely sustainable,” said Jonas Guenther, co-owner of We are the New Farmers. “We grow all of the spirulina ourselves.”
We are the New Farmers opened a storefront on Fifth Avenue near 20th Street, where customers can pick up their orders of the nutrient-rich algae grown from their farm in the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park, where they harvest the crop once each week.
“I recommend placing an order online for the simple reason that we offer a fresh product, it expires so it is not a shelf-stable thing,” said Guenther. “And that means we harvest once a week… and people can pick it up the same day or the day after the harvest.”
Spirulina is often known for its fishy, unpleasant flavor, which is due to it being produced far away in tropical climates in Southeast Asia and then dehydrated into a powder for transport, but the urban farmers found a way to produce it right here in Brooklyn, Guenther said.
“If you’ve had it by itself… you will notice it has actually a very nasty and a strong flavor,” Guenther said. “That is because normally you grow this kind of algae in a very tropical climate in southeast Asia and then you dehydrate it into a powder.”
The technology they created for their indoor farm at the Brooklyn Army Terminal allows the algae planters to grow spirulina to be sold fresh to Brooklynites and for delivery to most places across the country.
“We’ve developed technology that allows us to grow this not in a tropical climate, but right here in New York City, in Brooklyn,” Guenther said, “that means we don’t need to dehydrate it into a powder but can sell it as a fresh ingredient.”
Working with fresh spirulina, We are the New Farmers are able to sell the algae as a paste or in frozen cubes — which are absent of the sour flavors dehydrating spirulina brings.
“It’s more like a paste, almost like a hummus texture, so very smooth and doesn’t have any of the weird flavors that the powder has,” Guenther said.
With their spirulina being neutral in flavor, the algae is rich in vitamins and proteins, and therefore Guenther says it can be added to a variety of recipes such as smoothies and dips — and claims NASA is even looking into the algae to be used in their space food.
“I always like to say it is one of the greatest ways to start your day,” said Jonas, “because spirulina is incredibly rich in a variety of different nutrients and proteins.”
As the superfood has been gaining popularity in the borough and beyond, the farmers are looking to expand even more than their recent shop opening and are in the works of building a larger growing facility to keep up with their orders.
“We ran out of space because the last couple of months went pretty well for us,” Guenther said, “so we needed to expand and while we were working on building a much bigger facility we decided to open a second location.”
We are the New Farmers are planning to host a grand-opening event at the new location between 20th and 21st streets on April 16 from noon to 4 pm, where they will handout free smoothie shots made from their fresh spirulina.