Indoor Farms Feed Cities
There’s a revolution going on in many big cities. We’re not talking about politics—this is about food and hydroponic growing. Vacant buildings and unused spaces, the blight of many neighborhoods, are being transformed into indoor farms that use hydroponic systems and the space-saving strategies of “vertical farming” to grow fresh food, which is often in short supply in urban areas. Check out some of these inspiring projects.
Microgreens—including amaranth, arugula, broccoli, carrot, basil, dark purple mizuna, and cabbage—as well as super nutritious wheatgrass, are the primary crops of Bloombrick Urban Agriculture. The hydroponic farm is located in the Foods Hub, a new-business incubator in Somerville, Massachusetts, housed inside the former home of Ames Safety Envelope Co. The microgreens are sold in pots while the plants are still alive and continue to grow until the customer is ready to harvest.
In Bedford Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, the 90,000 square feet inside a windowless, two-story-tall abandoned warehouse has been transformed into FarmedHere, which produces leafy greens and herbs sold in Whole Foods Market, Shop ‘n Save, and other local fresh markets. With no outside sunlight, the farm’s energy budget might seem cost-prohibitive, but FarmedHere is working on harnessing and using the methane gas that is a by-product of composting.
The CDC Farm and Fishery, located in central Detroit, pairs food crops with fish to create an indoor self-sustaining ecosystem that produces fresh vegetables and tilapia for individuals and restaurants in the blighted neighborhood. It estimates that its workers can harvest up to 100 fish per week, depending on customer demand. The farm’s basil, parsley, sprouts, and microgreens are available for consumers to buy directly at the city’s Eastern Market and at CDC’s Peaches & Greens produce market.
Newark, New Jersey
An abandoned steel plant in the city was razed to make way for a new 69,000-square-foot complex that is expected to be finished in late 2015. Operated by AeroFarms, the building will include labs and a café, as well as 46,000 square feet of growing space. The crops will be stacked vertically—rather than in long rows—and will be lit with LED bulbs. AeroFarms is expecting to reap up to 30 harvests a year, yielding 2 million pounds of greens, including romaine lettuce, arugula, and kale.
New York City
In 2011, Gotham Greens set up a rooftop hydroponic farm at an industrial building in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood. The 15,000-square-foot farm now produces more than 100 tons of fresh leafy greens each year. The power is provided in part by on-site solar panels, while LED lighting, advanced glazing, passive ventilation, and thermal curtains help limit the demands for electricity and heat. Gotham Greens operates two other hydroponic farms in the New York City area and one in Chicago.