Whole Foods, a grocery store located in Brooklyn, New York, is in the process of putting an 1,850 square meter (20,000 square feet) greenhouse on its roof in response to customer requests for locally grown fresh produce. The store is partnering with Gotham Greens, a company in Brooklyn that builds urban commercial-scale greenhouses. Gotham Greens built its first greenhouse facility on a Brooklyn rooftop in 2011 (see image below). The glassed-in environments they create control light, temperature, humidity, CO2 levels, nutrition and water. The plants are grown hydroponically using a mineral nutrient solution and no soil. Production is sustainable year round.
For the grocery it means providing fresh produce picked from its own greenhouse and placed on shelves within 30 minutes. This eliminates transportation and reduces the carbon footprint associated with each head of lettuce or tomato that gets produced. It also means customers get what they want, fresh produce all year round. Whole Foods isn’t even paying for the greenhouse. Instead Gotham Greens is taking on the cost and selling its produce to the store just like any other farm. Excess not used by the store can be sold to other local retailers.
Gotham Greens intends to exploit the rooftop capacity of New York City in developing a sustainable urban farm model. The company installs solar panels along with its greenhouses to make them energy self-sufficient. This allows for year round climate control making farming a 365 day operation. In addition all water used in the hydroponic system is recaptured and recycled.
If successful Whole Foods has expressed interest in opening up other rooftop farms. Watch the video. It may inspire you to have a conversation with your local grocer.