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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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Nashville Hydroponic Operation Grows from Small-Scale Project to Full-Time Business

June 9, 2014 |
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Orkin

Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Orkin

When Jeffrey Orkin started the Urban Hydro Project, he knew he wanted to test the waters of hydroponic growing on a small scale, but didn’t know exactly what the end result would be—until now. Orkin has officially made the move from small-scale hydroponic experimenter to full-scale hydroponic entrepreneur with the creation of Greener Roots Farm.

Orkin started the Urban Hydro Project in a 135 square foot utility room on the roof of a condo in downtown Nashville. For Greener Roots Farm, he plans to scale up significantly.  Orkin is currently finishing the build-out on a hydroponic farm in a 6,000 square foot space. Read More

Pioneering Brooklyn Farm Expands, Continues to Lead the Way in Urban Agriculture

January 16, 2014 |
Gotham Greens worker harvests greens from the company’s Brooklyn greenhouse. Photo Credit: Gotham Greens/Mark Weinberg

Gotham Greens worker harvests lettuces from the company’s Brooklyn greenhouse.
Photo Credit: Gotham Greens/Mark Weinberg

Since 2008, Brooklyn’s Gotham Greens has been working hard to make a difference in the lives of New Yorkers.

As an urban farming pioneer, the for-profit company has established two large commercial farms in the city to meet the demand for fresh, wholesome, local produce. In the process, it has served as a pioneer in the rapidly evolving world of urban agriculture.

“Inspired by innovation and technology, we are driven by a sense of duty to address ecological issues facing our agricultural system,” explains Viraj Puri, co-founder and CEO of Gotham Greens. “The objective is to provide city residents with fresh, local produce, year-round.”

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Spotting Opportunity from Above, Airline Pilot Launches Rooftop Farming Startup in Hawaii

September 23, 2013 |
Rooftop farm in Waimanalo, Hawaii using FarmRoof technology. Photo Credit: FarmRoof

Rooftop farm in Waimanalo, Hawaii using FarmRoof technology. Photo Credit: FarmRoof

One day, as Alan Joaquin surveyed the landscape of his native Hawaii from his perch in the pilot seat of a Hawaiian Airlines jetliner, he had a revelation.

“I saw nothing but rooftops, and realized we could be growing food on them.”

Joaquin, an entrepreneur since his teen years with a strong interest in horticulture and environmental restoration, was looking for another place to literally “roll out” a modular urban farming system he had been developing.

Joaquin, now a commercial airline pilot, got his start in business in his teens and early twenties as a commercial landscape contractor focusing on ecological restoration, and developed an erosion blanket product to rehabilitate stream banks and facilitate native species restoration. Read More

Master Urban Gardener Launches Rooftop Ready Seed Company

April 11, 2013 |
Zach Pickens, founder of Rooftop Ready Seeds.

Zach Pickens, founder of Rooftop Ready Seeds.

When you think of New York City, you think of an urban cement jungle of taxis and crowded people – antithetical to a peaceful world of green gardens and fresh produce. Not Zach Pickens. When he followed his wife, a theatre producer, to the Big Apple from his Ohio roots, he figured it was just the time to start his rooftop garden business: Rooftop Ready Seeds.

Pickens, a political science major, wasn’t exactly trained for urban farming. When he saw an empty rooftop on his apartment building in Brooklyn, he relied on memories of his grandparents’ backyard gardens to guide his effort to ‘green’ the asphalt plot.

Eventually, he was hired as the farm manager for Riverpark Farm, supplier for Riverpark restaurant, and one of the largest urban farming models in New York City (they launched their rooftop farm on the site of a stalled construction site). Read More

Fish and Greens Grow Together on Rooftop Farm in Winter Gardens, Fla.

January 30, 2013 |

Photo Credit: Green Sky Growers.

Traveling from farm to market has never been a shorter trip than it is for the produce grown by Green Sky Growers, a rooftop aquaponic farm, in Winter Gardens, Fla. The farm’s main client is a restaurateur housed in the same building. Delivering fresh produce is a mere one-minute commute in an elevator.

The unique aquaponic operation arose through the personal vision of Bert Roper, an aquaculture expert from Winter Gardens, Fla., whose ancestors settled the area more than a century ago. Although Roper passed away in late 2012, his legacy lives on. It’s visible in the lush, edible greenery that draws nutrients from a rooftop pond atop a multi-rise, 3,000 sq. ft. warehouse. Read More

Vegetables in the Sky; Startup to Bring Year-Round Hydroponic Production to Urban Rooftops

December 10, 2012 |

Although the Swartz family has been farming for three generations, Joe Swartz’s Sky Vegetables in Amherst is very different from the typical farm of his father and grandfather.

When his grandparents, John and Anastasia Swartz immigrated to the United States from Poland, they settled on a 40-acre homestead where they raised dairy cows, tobacco, onions, vegetables, and five children. Their sons, Walter and John Swartz took over the farm and expanded production to 300 acres of rented land in Amherst and surrounding towns. Read More

Hydroponic Urban Ag Startup Seeks to Create Scalable, Sustainable and Affordable Model to Feed Cities

December 4, 2012 |

Cityblooms Microgreens. Photo Credit: Cityblooms

Cityblooms is a food revolution waiting to happen. The Santa Cruz startup is now developing a comprehensive system to grow hydroponic microgreens on a commercial scale, but it came from humble beginnings.

The company was founded in 2001 by Nicholas Halmos, then an undergrad at Brown University. He was working on a junior year entrepreneurial project, when he and his friends decided to experiment with hydroponically grown tomatoes, and a light bulb turned on.

“I have been into urban agriculture longer than most,” Halmos said. “Even though I never particularly had a green thumb and we had no idea what we were doing.”

He started by buying a tomato plant at Home Depot, washing off the soil and encouraging hydroponic growth in a setup in his bathroom. The plant exploded with fecundity and Halmos began having dreams of feeding an urban nation. Read More

Manhattan Restaurant’s Rooftop Farm Provides all the Fresh Ingredients it Needs

October 15, 2012 |

Below New York City’s skyscrapers, 8-foot tall okra plants tower over an impressive array of vegetables, herbs and flowers growing on a rooftop farm situated just 100-feet from the kitchen of Riverpark Restaurant. Lunch and dinner menus state that meals are made with “produce grown right here at the Riverpark Farm.” In fact, the 15,000-square-foot urban farm on East 29th Street supplies 100 percent of the restaurant’s organic herbs, lettuce, and flowers. Read More