NYC Farming Kicks into High Gear

May 10, 2011 at 3:21 pm Leave a comment

Farming in New York City has kicked into high gear.  After clearing a maze of building and regulatory hurdles, startup Gotham Greens opened a hydroponic greenhouse that is expected to produce 100 tons of vegetables and herbs annually for sale to local retailers and restaurants.

The 15,000-square-foot facility on a rooftop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, will produce crops year-round.  Arugula, bok choy, basil, Swiss chard, and three varieties of lettuce — green leaf, red leaf and butterhead — will be available for sale starting June.

“Controlled environment agriculture is practiced on a commercial scale in many parts of the world.” said Gotham Greens co-founder Viraj Puri on CNN.  “What we’re trying to do is bring that into an urban environment.”

As more and more people move to cities, and world population explodes, many experts see urban hydroponic greenhouses as the future of agricultural production.  In this vision of the future, crops will increasingly be grown in indoor greenhouses or “farms,” where they do not need soil to grow.  All they’ll need is right mix of minerals and nutrients.

Proponents of hydroponic farms view them as an eco-friendly way to mass produce food in high population urban areas. Hydroponic greenhouses use significantly less water than conventional farming methods.  And because growing conditions are controlled — everything from light and temperature to humidity and nutrition — there’s less pest and disease risk to plants.

Hydroponic greenhouses also bypass many of the pitfalls of traditional agriculture, such as soil erosion, agricultural runoff and chemical pesticides.

Some experts entertain even grander visions for the future of urban farming.  Dr. Dickson Despommier, a professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University, has long championed the idea of vertical farms, the growing of food in high-rise buildings, using hydroponic and other soil-free technologies.

“It makes sense to grow food where people live,” he said on CNN.

Gotham Greens’ commercial greenhouse is not the only hydroponic greenhouse in New York City.  Affordable-housing developer Blue Sea Development Corp. built a 10,000-square-foot hydroponic greenhouse on the roof of Forest Houses, a housing complex in the South Bronx, that is expected to meet the annual fresh vegetable needs of up to 450 people.  And the Manhattan School for Children on the Upper West Side of Manhattan built a rooftop hydroponic greenhouse that serves as a science lab for its students from kindergarten to the eighth grade.

In a city with as many buildings as New York, the market for rooftop greenhouse could be enormous.

“There are literally thousands of acres of unused rooftop space,” said Gotham Greens’ Puri.

See related New York Bounty posts here and here.


Entry filed under: City Farmers, Local Food Production, Rooftop Gardening, Urban Agriculture. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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