Innovative Shipbuilding Delivers Local Food
“We’re shipbuilders by trade with a family background in food,” explains Bob Kunkel, co-owner of Harbor Harvest, about the retail sustainable food enterprise that opened last fall in East Norwalk. The store strives to be farm-to-market, locally sourcing foods as much as possible. With a butcher and produce section reminiscent of the mom-and-pop markets of yesteryear, Harbor Harvest sources fresh produce, dairy and meats from farms and vendors throughout Connecticut and New York. By doing so, the store supports local farmers, increases the freshness of the products, and cuts down on the environmental impact of long-distance goods delivery.
“The store is a hybrid and it’s because we are engineers; it’s not just a store, but a start at looking at a much bigger picture with environmental issues with delivery transportation,” says Kunkel.
Kunkel and co-owner Ernie Marsan are passionate about this aspect of disruptive sustainability and how their boatbuilding and local delivery service can contribute to combating the environmental side of global warming and emissions. “We see the damage done when food is not sourced locally with emissions, traffic, noise pollution and gas usage. We are doing our little part by delivering by lithium-powered bicycles,” explains Kunkel. “But we are really aiming to move traffic from main highways by using waterways responsibly on Long Island Sound and the Hudson River.”
Through his Stamford-based ship construction and design company, Alternative Marine Technologies (AlternativeMarineTech.com), Kunkel was the project manager for the Norwalk Maritime Aquarium’s The Spirit of the Sound hybrid-electric research vessel. He is currently creating a lithium-powered, refrigerated boat to travel between the harbors of Connecticut and Long Island as a “blue” alternative to long delivery times caused by congestion and highway distance between the two areas.
“With Harbor Harvest, we wanted to create a food hub to see what local products were needed and desired. We saw issues immediately with in-demand items. For instance, customers on the Long Island side want fresh meat from Connecticut while getting Long Island’s amazing potatoes and wine to Connecticut was an issue. What would be a two-hour delivery from port to port can take more than half a day on the highways,” Kunkel says.
Another issue with refrigerated delivery revolves around multiple truck stops for drop-offs. By the end of the route, the risk of spoilage is much higher because of the number of times the doors are opened for deliveries. This issue is alleviated with the refrigerated delivery boat design, which holds up to 12,000 pounds of product and only travels between ports. Two common issues with coastal shipping along Long Island Sound—coastal homeowners not wanting to see the industry side of shipping and the associated noise and pollution—are alleviated by Alternative Marine Technologies’ more aesthetically pleasing boat design and the quiet and cleanliness of lithium batteries for power.
“We are starting small to show that sustainability one neighborhood at a time works,” Kunkel expresses. This mindset is seen in the store as well with frequent cooking classes offered. Using the expertly butchered local meats, the owners aim to show customers how to work with the meats and fresh produce for different uses in everyday life with new techniques and recipes.
For more information, visit Facebook.com/HarborHarvest, email HarborHarvest7@gmail.com or call 203-939-9289. Harbor Harvest is open weekdays 8am to 8pm, Saturdays 8am to 6pm, and Sundays 9am to 3pm. Location: Harbor Harvest, 7 Cove Ave, Norwalk. See ad, page 25.
Ariana Rawls Fine is editor of Natural Awakenings Fairfield County and Natural Awakenings New Haven/Middlesex Counties. She resides in Stratford with her family.