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Because it’s strange and beautiful and hot, people from everywhere converge on Florida and they bring their cuisine and their traditions with them. The Zest celebrates the intersection of food and communities in the Sunshine State.

It’s Always Sunny at St. Petersburg’s Brick Street Farms

hand holding plant

Meet Shannon O’Malley, co-founder of St. Petersburg’s Brick Street Farms. It’s an urban agribusiness that combines timeless farming practices with new technology to create plants that she says taste better and are better for the environment.

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When you picture a farm, what comes to mind? Acres of crops? Wide open spaces? Well, you’re about to meet a farmer who’s updating that image for the 21st century.

Shannon O’Malley is the co-founder and CEO of Brick Street Farms in St. Petersburg’s Warehouse Arts District. It’s a hydroponic farm that uses climate-controlled shipping containers to grow produce.

An avid gardener from Pennsylvania, Shannon moved to Florida and became frustrated with the state’s challenging conditions.

“I tried doing the same thing down here in Florida, and it was tough. I give so much credit to the farmers down here in Florida—sandy soil, salinated water, lots of pests,” says Shannon, an electrical engineer by training. “I ended up converting my garage into a hydroponic growing space. And then I added climate control to it, and things just took off from there.”

Did they ever.

Shannon and her husband, software developer Brad Doyle, started Brick Street Farms in 2015. The company now produces more than 40 tons of produce annually.

“We’re able to produce a tremendous amount of leafy greens, herbs and flowers in a very small space,” Shannon says. That’s because the shipping containers maximize vertical space and use technology to create the conditions plants need in order to grow year-round.

“We are creating the ideal, rainbows-and-unicorn version of environment that all of the plants are looking for,” Shannon says.

Brick Street grows more than 44 varieties of plants, including baby romaine, spinach, kale, collard greens, basil, thyme, oregano and more. The products are for sale at the Brick Street’s on-site market and in hundreds of Publix stores. Shannon and Brad also started a spinoff company, Thrive Containers.

Shannon attributes Brick Street’s success to several factors, including flavor, environmental friendliness, accessibility to the public and an engaging Instagram presence.

“Our goal was to take urban agriculture and turn it up a notch,” she says.

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