Harbor and River Vessel Transport Company

The Sail Transport Network has printed an interview and my blog post about the Harbor and River Vessel Transport Company HARVEST

Since “Sail Transport for New York City Takes Shape” was posted on https://www.resilience.org/, and https://www.sailtransportnetwork.org/ , here are a few other websites that have picked it up using a “feed aggregator.” https://content.usatoday.com/topics/article/south+street+seaport/0cGO7ub82J1fc/1 

There is also a new video about the Vermont Sail Freight Project

harvest produce

Why HARVEST? Why Now?

The New York City Bioregion is connected tenuously to the rest of the world by literally thousands of lifelines, including an aging and increasingly failure-prone power grid; an aging and leaky water system; and a vast network of roads, rails, shipping and air routes that rely exclusively on increasingly costly fossil fuels. Like a patient on intravenous life support, any major interruption in the flow of natural resources, energy, water or food to the metropolitan area could hamstring or permanently harm its economy and people. With global oil, gas and coal production predicted to irreversibly decline in the next 10 to 20 years, this collapse becomes not a question of if, but when.

 All three of these great calamities were born out of the world’s profligate use of cheap, non-renewable fossil fuels. Like so many past boons, this one has now become a bane. It’s important to understand that all three crises are intimately linked to each other, and magnify each other: For example, a severe drought that continues in the mid-west, could cut off our region’s supply of wheat, corn and soy, causing food shortages and a financial meltdown. Peak oil requires that we drill for fossil fuels in increasingly extreme landscapes, like the deep-water Gulf of Mexico, prone to more and more powerful hurricanes, or by using hydraulic fracturing that will likely contaminate groundwater in the heart of New York and Pennsylvania farming. Our sprawling global oil pipeline stretches halfway around the globe, making us vulnerable and dependent on volatile states. An economic crash or financially-sapping resource war abroad, could wreck our balance of trade, and shatter our tax base, making it fiscally impossible to harden our infrastructure against climate change impacts, which would lead to more economic disasters. The accumulation of shocks could be catastrophic, if we do not prepare.

 One of those tenuous lifelines is the global shipping industry and the NY/NJ Port.  Higher petroleum costs, and higher wages in countries in which much of our imported goods are made could tear that lifeline.  According to Low Tech Magazine, wind powered freighters may be just as fast as the largest most “modern” container ships. 

 Eugen Maersk“The Eugen Maersk (the world’s longest ocean freighter at 1,300 feet) left Rotterdam on the tail end of a journey from Shanghai. But the giant freighter is cruising at 10 knots, well shy of her 26-knot top speed. At about half speed, fuel consumption drops to 100-150 tons of fuel a day from 350 tons, saving as much as $5,000 an hour.

The German Preussen, the largest sailing ship ever built, was launched in 1902 andPreussen travelled mainly between Hamburg (Germany) and Iquique (Chile). It was rammed by a large steam vessel in 1910. A one way trip between Germany and Chile took the cargo vessel between 58 and 79 days. The best average speed over a one way trip was 13.7 knots. The lowest average speed was 10 knots.  Additionally, one giant container ship can emit almost the same amount of cancer and asthma-causing chemicals as 50 million cars.  It is time for a new age of sail.”

 Who is doing it Now?:

 The use of sailing vessels as transportation is nothing new.  Many coastal schooners and sailing vessels are still working in the trade between main ports and remote islands and harbors in Africa, Caribbean, South America, 

The Indian, Ocean and the Pacific.   From Northern Ireland to Fiji, freight carrying sailingPretty Kwai smaller ships are being planned, built, and sailing.  These first forays into what will become a huge post carbon enterprise are examples of how coastal short sea shipping along the North American coasts, bays, and rivers will be changing in the near and mid-term.    Some
operating and soon to be operating examples are, the SV Kwai, Tres Hombres Packet Company, Greenheart, and B9 Shipping.   These Ocean Going Ships Inspired HARVEST.

 The idea for a the Harbor and River Vessel Transport Company came from a discussion I had a few years ago with Christina Sun an artist who blogs about things maritime at Bowsprite, and Will Van Dorp who photographs everything about New York Harbor.  Will blogs at Tugster.  During those conversations and talking with others who love sailing vessels and would like to put them to work hauling farm goods and general cargo on the Hudson River, the Bays of New York Harbor, and Long Island Sound — the genesis on an idea for just such a venture started to come together.

B9 Ship 

After I discovered a like-minded group called the Vermont Sail Freight Project, the HARVEST idea was revived.   The Vermont Sail Freight Project is “a contemporary re-invention of an historic regional food-way, and is sponsored by the Willowell Foundation   of Monkton, Vermont.  In 2013, the Sail Freight team, led by farmer Erik Andrus and Willowell staff, started building a simple low-cost sailing barge 39 feet in length, 10′ in beam (width) and with 12 tons of cargo capacity with which to trade Vermont-produced foods in New York City and the Lower Hudson.vermont sail freight1

“Our sailing barge is being built to an economical and amateur-friendly design that is loaded with features to facilitate its main job:  hauling large amounts of food.  There is a saying in New England, “handsome is as handsome does,” and though our sailing barge will have simple lines and no-frills equipment, we believe she will do very handsomely!  We are building her with an all-volunteer crew of students and community members, to launch in Lake Champlain by July.  She will be named “Ceres,” in honor of the Roman goddess of grain and agriculture and the figure atop the state house building in Montpelier.”

HARVEST and the Vermont Sail Freight Project are both considered “short sea shipping.”  Short sea shipping is any movement of freight by water that doesn’t cross oceans such as freight ferries, short-haul barges and various other marine vessels. Both public agencies and private companies are investigating the potential economic and environmental benefits of transferring more cargo from road to sea. The New York metro region, home to the Port of New York and New Jersey and an extensive network of waterways, seems well-suited for this mode of freight transport. The Port of NY/NJ is the largest port on the east coast and the third largest in the US. In 2010, over $175 billion worth of cargo flowed into and out of its terminals. For the freight that is offloaded at these facilities, this is just one stop in an extensive intermodal distribution chain. In New York City’s metro region, 80% of freight transport is carried by truck, a practice that congests our highways, increases air pollution, and is entirely dependent on fossil fuels.

 Historically, thousands of vessels plied the waters to and from cities on the Harbor and oyster sloop2the farming areas of New Jersey and the Hudson Valley delivering fresh local farm produce, fish, shellfish, and passengers to ports along the way. The Hudson River and the Harbor was once a bustling highway linking even the smallest communities into a web of regularly scheduled routes. Farmers and oystermen relied on this vibrant and diverse fleet of vessels to bring their goods to market and to receive Steam boatsupplies. The schooners, sloops, and steam boats provided a unique way of life for early inhabitants. For those who worked the inland waters of New York City Bioregion, the sea was a common element in their lives.

Today, the water highways still exist and need to be reinvigorated.  Maintaining maritime trade routes is more than just a celebration of tradition. In a carbon constrained future sustainable water transport will be necessary and in the event of a regional disaster water-based community links can serve as vital infrastructure to New York City Bioregion.harborview


HARVEST will facilitate the delivery of locally grown agricultural products, local seafood, pelletized biomass, artisan crafts, and perhaps containerized urban compost as a back haul to and from New York and New Jersey farming and fishing communities.

The proposal is to build a seasonal or year-round transient floating farmer’s and Shoreside farmer's marketfishermen’s market fleet that visits public docks in many New York Harbor waterfront communities selling fresh produce, seafood, and other local products right off the boat.  HARVEST’s mission will be to support sustainable local agriculture and inspire facilitate healthy eating, as well as to preserve and share the maritime heritage that was once an essential element of the Hudson Valley, Long Island, and Northern New Jersey.  At this point in time HARVEST is still a concept, but given the energy, economic, and environmental issues facing the New York City Bioregion, perhaps it is an idea whose time has come. 

 Many people have been thinking about how to transport farm goods, forest products, and seafood from small ports along the Hudson River, Long Island and Connecticut, a the Raritan Bayshore (NJ),  Lake Champlain, and the Erie Canal.  

One project is the Hudson River Food Corridor Initiative sponsored by New York City Soil traderoutemap-280x750& Water Conservation District. The Hudson River Food Corridor Initiative will study the feasibility of an alternate means of transporting fresh produce from agricultural regions in North-Central New York near the Hudson River and Long Island to the New York-Newark Metropolitan Area.  The analysis considered development of an intermodal option utilizing refrigerated containers, and alternative energy sources to power the refrigeration during transport and storage. The vast majority of fresh produce arriving in the New York metropolitan area comes by trucks that contribute to congestion on area bridges, tunnels and roads.

 The U.S. Department of Transportation will work with the New York City Soil & Water trailers-loading-barge600x282Conservation District, the I-95 Corridor Coalition & New York State DOT to better understand the feasibility, benefits and potential efficiencies of this alternative. Analysis and research will further help develop the concept and identify specific opportunities where DOT can provide support.  Another is the Hudson River Foodway Project, that is a truck roll on-roll off barge project.  Both of these projects are still in the planning stage and again entirely dependent of fossil fuels. 

  HARVEST will be a “for benefit”or more likely an L3C  company based in part on the Farm Boat project in Seattle and the Island Market Boat in Maine. A Sustainable FarmboatLogoTransportation system allows affordable access to transportation modes, which are consistent with ecosystem health and support low impact economic development.  HARVEST is a new venture founded on the principal values of economic, social, and environmental sustainability and investing our experience, skills, and resources in opportunities that support these values. HARVEST will strive to provide a unique culture for all our employees and stakeholders of creativity, progressive innovation, and visionary thinking:

  • HARVEST has benefits in several areas: food, health, responsible consumption, community development, citizen participation, sail training, regional planning, and job creation (in farming, logistics, ship building and maintenance among others).
  • The possible gains by incorporating the HARVEST transportation model and local food and power include: improving the diet, disease prevention, and recycling of organic waste and reusing inorganic waste,  carbon sequestration, reduction in costs associated with transporting food ; responsible consumption, increasing self-esteem. 
  • Local agriculture and “floating farmers markets” can have educational and therapeutic purposes by inviting us to reconnect with the cycles of nature. HARVEST’s business model promotes the preservation of biodiversity and agricultural knowledge that many people still have, and re-establishing the link between urban dwellers and their food.

Christina harbor

Drawing by Christina Sun 

 HARVEST is a reaction not only to the environmental and food equity needs of urban New Jersey and the Metro New York City area, but to a new brand of locavore food culture:

  •  Local agriculture is experiencing a major upsurge around the world. From pressure to allow chickens on small urban lots, through public Permaculture food forests in, to new community garden projects, and an exponential increase in local sourcing by restaurants, and through farmers markets.
  •  Growing food is no longer something that’s only being done “out there” in the country.
  • Cities are islands of near-total food dependency, in the midst of an ocean of mass-scale, petrochemical-reliant, monoculture food production. And the global industrial food system, which has so effectively systematized and expanded the production of all major food staples, is nearing collapse. 
  • Around the world, aquifers and soils are being depleted, land is being salinized and accumulating toxic pollutants, genetic drift from GMOs is threatening the viability of seed crops, bee colonies are collapsing, deserts are encroaching on productive land, food transport costs are rising exponentially at the same time as food travels ever farther from field to plate, and major crops are experiencing catastrophic failure as a result of climate-change related weather patterns.
  • Cities benefit from the increased convenience, beauty, and healthfulness of growing our own food, and accessing nearby food sources; we may actually need it. In the middle of the last century, nearly 80% of the food consumed in the New York/New Jersey metro area  was grown here; now that figure is closer to 15%. This makes us extremely vulnerable to any kind of interruption in the food supply.
  • As climate change makes extreme weather events more frequent and peak oil makes fossil fuel costs rise exponentially, it seems unlikely that we can continue to have food on our plates that has traveled an average of 1500 miles.
  • The need to create green jobs, reduce food miles, get farmers and consumers urban farmertogether, help re-build the local food system, and support regional processing, distribution, and marketing.
  • A focus for activists to drive the new food politics on economic  and ecological grounds
  • Urban designers and planners using food and the way it gets grown, processed, packaged, marketed, distributed, eaten and recycled to reshape our cities.
  • Community developers tying health, environment, education, employment, transportation, waste recovery and more together with local food .

 Environmental and Community Benefits of HARVEST:

  • Produce is grown/sold/delivered with minimal use of fossil fuel consumption, low carbon footprint, reduces waste as on site composting recycles vegetable, fruit, coffee, and fish scraps from the farm and the community.
  • HARVEST will be an important link in providing access to freshproduce for local communities living in “food deserts.”
  • HARVEST will offer educational and cultural opportunities and provide a venue for cooking demonstrations, readings, and lectures from visiting experts.
  • Local schools would not just be invited to observe but will be true partners through classes, workshops, training, and employment opportunities for students and graduates. 

 HARVEST operates in part like a farmers marketing cooperative to promote and coordinate the delivery of local foods from farms and other food producers to waterfront 

Farmers marketcommunities on a regularly scheduled basis. Open to the public at each port of call, these boats will serve as both floating farmers markets and part of a larger cultural change – fostering civic involvement and contributing to the unique character and vitality of NY/NJ Harbor waterfront communities.

  • The trend is for ecological and sustainable growing techniques have created a demand both for fresh local produce both in city food deserts, and in upscale markets and restaurants.
  • Local farmers can have stronger relationship with chefs and restaurants that are interested in fresh, organic and locally grown food.
  • Produce and fish is sold as close to possible from harvest preserving high quality and eliminating loss in transport and storage.
  • 100% demand is within close proximity.  Some significant amount of sales can be made at the dock or nearby using bio-diesel or human powered vehicles.  By contrast, trucking from the Hudson Valley or Long Island (or for that matter from California or South America), is more economically and environmentally expensive.  Reduced distribution costs will allow for a higher profit margin on sales, passing the efficiency onto the farm and the consumer.
  • With a projected 5th year revenue $5 million, HARVEST would represent about 1.5% of the New York Metro area’s approximately $300 million dollar organic food industry, however it can have a significant impact on the food supply in the municipality in which the facility(ies) are located. 
  • HARVEST is not dependent on creating a new market or shifting a significant consumer behavior pattern.

 HARVEST will be will be a financially sustainable  shipping business moving a variety of agricultural goods from local farms, fresh fish and shellfish from the Belford Seafood DSCF1559Cooperative or Long Island Sound oyster farms, carbon neutral, and general cargos to the New York metropolitan area from ports along the Hudson River, Raritan Bay in New Jersey, and Long Island Sound.

  • HARVEST will be both a for-profit and an experiential education organization whose mission is to share the experience of local maritime heritage by providing active participation in the delivery of farm produce and other essential goods by water.
  • HARVEST will “ purpose build” vessels to move goods from port to portboat building
  • HARVESTwill be fashioned to provide an alternative, less carbon intensive produce and general cargo service based on a business philosophy that takes into account a triple bottom line – economic, social, and environmental benefits. 
  • HARVEST will market its services to farmers, fishing cooperatives, and general cargo brokers, and logistics companies as a lower emission/carbon neutral alternative to shipping by truck or rail within the Hudson Valley, northern New Jersey, and western Long Island Sound.

The key advantage that a water-centric maritime distribution system has today over the historic  vessels of a century ago is that internet communication can be utilized to virtually represent food producers to convey the type and quality of goods offered before the boats arrive at the dock.

  • Goods are either sold by the ship’s crew or by the food producers themselves who pay a fee to participate as they would in land based farmers markets. However, the value-added attraction of a water-side venue coupled with appeal of historic maritime flavor will deliver much more than just the typical market experience.
  • A CSA type program will be offered in many of the communities HARVEST plans to serve. CSA Members will be able to pick up seasonal farm fresh produce each week at the dock. Non-members will be able to purchase items off the boats as well. However, CSA members will have the advantage of selecting goods before the market opens and ability to request specific items for future deliveries.
  • The goal is to eventually service ten different ports on the Hudson River and the Harbor with at least three primary HARVEST vessels working weekly routes. Each boat will be staffed with a captain and deckhand plus part time interns and volunteers. HARVEST vessels can have cargo hold refrigeration capability to keep food fresh as the vessel progresses along its weekly route. The vessels will be loading and off-loading cargo at different ports and, in some cases, assembling CSA member allotments along the way. There will be many opportunities for youth program participants, interns and volunteers to learn first- hand about maritime operations from managing cargo manifests to experiencing navigation on The Hudson and the Harbor.
  • It is envisioned that HARVEST vessels will typically spend a day in each port on their route in order to transact sales, load cargo, give tours, host entertainment, share stories, and conduct food demonstrations that help patrons learn about local sustainable agriculture. 
  • Other vessels of varying sizes and types along with their produce and craft vendors will be invited to join the primary farm product delivery vessels at HARVEST Market Events where space is available.
  • One of HARVEST’s purposes is to coordinate, schedule and promote the floating market concept and expose visitors to the traditional working maritime heritage of the Hudson and the Harbor.

Potential Partnerships and Collaboration:

 In order to provide integrated services HARVEST will form strategic partnerships with the Hudson River Food Corridor Initiative, The Vermont Sail Freight Project, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy’s Alternative Power Project, the Hudson River Foodway Project, NRDC, The Urban Assembly New York Harbor SchoolSouth Street Seaport Museum, tug and barge companies, Grow NYC, Lower Hudson-Long Island Resource Conservation & Development Council, Departments of Agriculture in CT,  NY and NJ, private and non-profit entities with waterfront access (Amsterdam Market, South Street Seaport Museum, Lower East Side Ecology Center, The River Project), farmers, fishermen, artist/craftsmen, and restaurants and retailers with a green agenda.   

The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School, maritime academy students, interns, and volunteers will be invited to be part of the crew and will learn about the logistics of coordinating and transporting cargo between local ports and communities.

 Although HARVEST can start with any available and usable vessel as a pilot, the goal is to “standardize” the vessels so that they are replicable, can be built in small ship yards (or by home builders to HARVEST’s plans), can be operated and maintained by a small crew and will be seaworthy and inexpensive.  The combination of either 50% sail and 50% biodiesel or methane fueled marine engines, or hybrid electric power will make this design a carbon neutral “sea pickup.” 

The following are sketches of one possible version of the HARVEST prototype.  The sketches came from boatdesign.net  from December 10, 2008 by a poster going by the name of Pfennig.  His post says in part, “I’ve been following the Dutch Barge LRC discussion with great interest….  The design I have been working on isn’t quite a Dutch Barge in styling, but it’s closer in concept. It’s similar to a barge in that it’s mostly flat bottomed (though it has some rocker to it, rather than purely flat).  It is designed for…UK canals – the draft is 3’1”, the maximum width is 10”10”, and the air draft can easily be reduced to only 6’6” by collapsing the masts and the house.” (making the vessel useful for transit through The Erie Canal and on the Raritan, Hackensack, and Passaic rivers).  This design is similar in several ways to the Vermont Sail Freight Project prototype.  

 Harvest 6 Harvest 5 Harvest 4





  • Length Over All: 45’6″
  • Length @ Waterline: 40’10”
  • Beam Over All: 10’10”
  • Beam @ Waterline: 8’5″
  • Draft: 3’1″
  • Air draft, house up: 8’5″
  • Air draft, house down: 6’6″
  • Headroom: 6’1″ throughout
  • Construction: Ply over sawn frames or steel
  •  hybrid electric auxiliary power. 




  Vermont Sail Freight Project prototype:

Vermont sail freight deck view


vermont sail 3vermont sail freight




Next Steps:

  •  Look for informed and engaged partners 
  • Set up an L3C ompany to begin to raise capital for the construction and operations of the vessels 
  • Develop written and web based materials, develop a government and public relations plan.
  • Prepare materials and present proposal at relevant conferences and meetings.
  • Work with the EPA and State Environmental Agencies to “adopt” the zero emission/carbon neutral model as a way of driving compliance with air quality standards.
  • Explore the market for carbon offsets and carbon credits available to the maritime shipping industry.
  • Secure financing for the construction of  two vessels
  • Contract with a naval architect to make sure that the ships comply with US Coast Guard regulations.
  • Contract with a green supply chain/logistics consultant or expert from academia  to develop a Transport Chain Analysis
  • Identify a ship yard(s) to build the vessels and set an aggressive schedule for completion and commissioning of the vessels
  • Develop a marketing plan to determine if the services provided for this type of ship on the routes intended will be of interest to Fair Trade goods brokers, wholesale and retail food businesses, restaurants, compost, and biomass (wood pellet) consolidators or manufacturers.
  • Develop routes and logistics for the types of cargo most efficiently carried in this type of vessel Meet  with and make decisions about a relationship with private and public port operators, 3PL’s, warehousing and drayage companies
  • Explore opportunities to use recycled and “certified” green materials in the construction of the vessel
  • Work with Siemens, Hybrid Propulsion, and other suppliers on the technical implications of using hybrid electric power propulsion
  • Meet  with the Port Authorities, state and federal agencies, Port advocates, logistics companies, and other port businesses and agencies to actively participate in and support the building, and deployment of zero/low carbon emission ships to reinforce their commitment to a cleaner, more compliant Harbors.
  • Meet with merchant marine unions
  • Identify and work with the business, educational, and environmental partners for the ambassadorial and education mission.
  • Begin to develop the sail training and research component with regional maritime academies, the Harbor School NYC), and academic institutions using existing regional sailing vessels.
  • Explore partnership opportunities with the U. S. Merchant Marine Academy to implement its alternative power project  and a cadet sail training program.







9 thoughts on “HARVEST

  1. Andrew,

    Can’t wait to meet up and discuss all this exciting and potentially transformative stuff with you. Certainly whatever we learn this year will be there for HARVEST to benefit from. Count on VSFP’s friendship and support as we both progress.


  2. Hi, Andrew. Impressive piece of work product here. You’re definitely on to something here.

    My enterprise Revolution Rickshaws executes services on one of the “missing links” of your vision – which you do mention at one point: “human powered vehicles”. RR is working on another missing link, and I’d love to discuss that element and others with you, if it pleases you.

    I also am the largest single investor in the Ceres project via Kickstarter, as far as I know – and I can hardly wait to join the crew on part of its maiden voyage. Good stuff to date, Erik!

    I’ll be at the permaculture event in Quebec in July, in case anyone is participating – bike to train to bike, of course. No ferries running NYC to VT… yet!

  3. Inspiring, exciting, and urgently needed vision!

    I’m honored to be among those who have helped provide funding to Erik and the Vermont Sail Freight Project. Had a great visit to the farm/barge-building site (and rice paddies) last month in VT.

    As a resident of NYC I’d love to learn more about HARVEST and lend support however I can. Our bioregion needs HARVEST to happen and help lead the change to more sane, just, and local economies.

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