A New York Story: Discover the Hydroponic Pizza


Written By: Marjorie Lau, Co-Founder of Marlo Hydroponic Skincare

Jeffrey Tucker, owner of Stone Bridge Farm in Schuylerville, NY and Stone Bridge Pizza & Salad in Manhattan, worked with Henry Gordon-Smith, Managing Director of Agritecture, to build hydroponic greenhouses on a 425-acre farm, in upstate NY.

“Just delicious. The sweetest cherries I’ve ever tasted. I shared them with everyone I knew. They were so delicious!” exclaimed Jeffrey Tucker. Cherries on a pizza? You bet. They are hydroponic cherry tomatoes. And, the cherries are a big favorite at Stone Bridge Pizza & Salad, his artisanal pizza and salad restaurant, located at 16 East 41st Street in NYC. If, on a particular Thursday, you happen to be standing in front of the restaurant, you might spot a truck making a hefty delivery of hydroponic vegetables and herbs. They are fresh from Mr. Tucker’s Stone Bridge Farm in Schuylerville, NY. Every other Thursday, Ron Mattia, who oversees farm operations, and his team make the trek from upstate New York to the restaurant. 

Why Hydroponics? 

The sustainable farming technology of hydroponics utilizes nutrient-dense water, not soil, to grow vegetables. Thus, there isn’t a need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides. And growing without soil eliminates environmental toxins and contaminated water runoff. Greenhouse hydroponic farming also conserves land and water, which is recycled and reused, important distinctions from conventional agriculture. Hydroponics is good for you and the environment. It’s precisely these benefits that led Mr. Tucker to discover the world of hydroponic farming. 


A Farm of Many Purposes 

Mr. Tucker’s passion for his farm runs deep. He purchased Stone Bridge Farm in 2002, principally to raise and train thoroughbreds. Today, the 425-acre farm spans three locations. The Sherman Lane and Purinton Road farms are across the street from one another. Four miles away is the 235-acre Clark Road broodmare and yearling farm, where you will find his three hydroponic greenhouses, which range from 3,000 to 9,000 square feet. The farm employs approximately 20 people. You might be wondering how Mr. Tucker went from thoroughbreds to hydroponics to a pizza and salad restaurant. It all started with nano-bubbles. 

In 2011, after several years of cultivating his passion for thoroughbreds, Mr. Tucker was introduced to a Toronto-based company that was developing a nano-bubble technology. Intrigued by the technology and its potential application to growing vegetables, he decided to invest in the company. What he discovered is that nano-bubble technology creates very tiny bubbles that are like little pockets of oxygen. The bubbles are smaller and more stable than regular bubbles. Unlike regular bubbles that float and dissipate quickly on the water’s surface, nano-bubbles linger below the surface for days, creating oxygen-rich water. This booster shot of oxygen takes hydroponic farming to the next level. Feeding plants with hyper-oxygenated water and the necessary nutrients enables plant roots to take up a concentrated level of nutrients, encouraging robust growth, which yields superior-tasting produce. As it happened, Mr. Tucker had a large piece of unused farmland and decided to make use of it, trying his hand at hydroponic farming with nano-bubble technology. 

He worked closely with Henry Gordon-Smith, Founder and Managing Director of Agritecture Consulting, to get three hydroponic greenhouses operational by 2013. In the beginning, the farm sold its produce at local farmers' markets and to customers within a 60-mile radius. 

A New Idea for Hydroponics 

Eventually, a friend suggested that Mr. Tucker open a restaurant to introduce people to his superior-tasting vegetables and herbs. Stone Bridge Pizza & Salad was born. The farm and restaurant teams experimented with growing a lot of different vegetables, including kale and eggplant. They eventually honed their hydroponic portfolio to cherry and plum tomatoes and greens such as arugula, basil, and beet greens, tailoring to the needs of the restaurant. Since the greenhouses produce year-round, there is an abundant and uninterrupted supply of fresh vegetables. What isn’t sourced from the farm, they purchase from the finest local suppliers. 


Fast-Casual Yet Artisanal 

Opened in 2017, Stone Bridge Pizza & Salad is a fast-casual format restaurant that seats 40 guests. Being fast-casual means speed is of the essence, with pizzas baking in three to four minutes. You can order a creative artisanal pizza, a "stonewich" (where the classic pizza crust morphs into an open face sandwich), or create your own. Stone Bridge Pizza & Salad has a clear philosophy about food, which is that comfort food and healthy food are not mutually exclusive. The restaurant’s mission is to serve healthy food that is highly satisfying and delicious.  Ultimately it comes down to the ingredients...and the expert chefs, of course. But one must start with fresh, all-natural ingredients. Stone Bridge has this down in spades, sourcing from their very own hydroponic farm. There's even a hydroponic unit in the restaurant that grows herbs. It's genuinely a farm-to-table experience. Although farm-fresh vegetables have a starring role, when it comes to pizza, it's also essential to get the crust right. And Stone Bridge does. The chefs prep the dough with a three-day fermentation process. The dough sits and ferments, allowing the flavor to develop. Sugar occurs naturally as the yeast develops, so there isn’t additive processed sugar. The fermentation makes for a delicious crust that is light, airy, and crispy. And the combination of the crust and veggies? A perfect pizza. 

Stone Bridge prioritizes clean, all-natural ingredients, but it also highly values sustainability in its operations. The cups, bowls, and utensils provided at the restaurant are compostable. 

A Favorite Ending 

And as for Mr. Tucker? It's undoubtedly been a path of discovery – from thoroughbreds to nano-bubbles, hydroponics, and pizza. These days, he visits his greenhouses monthly. He meets with Ron and other members of the farm team and peeks in on what’s growing. When asked about his favorite pizza, he grins. “The Margherita is my favorite pizza. It is a very simple pizza. A sugar-free crust with our farm-fresh tomatoes and basil. Healthy, fresh, quality ingredients -- you don't need much more than that." 

Follow @stonebridgenyc on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. 


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