Not many restaurateurs would commit to building their own aquaponics system in the basement of their restaurant. But Anton Kotar, owner of Anton’s Taproom in Kansas City, Mo., had experience raising tropical fish and tending plants in his home so he knew he could make the sustainable, aquaponic-restaurant concept work.
Anton’s Taproom opened in October 2012, and started serving food on November 1. And Kotar worked on the space, renovating the historic building and constructing fish tanks, 14 months before opening. Since opening, the restaurant has seen a lot of success, and the restaurant’s aquaponic and vertical farm system are running swimmingly.
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).
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.
In a world where climate change continues to wreak more and more havoc on growing seasons and arable land becomes increasingly scarce and expensive, viable farming alternatives are the Holy Grail of sustainable agriculturists.
Local Garden of Vancouver, BC, a subsidiary of the vertical farming technology company Alterrus, is the latest challenger to the intractable problem of providing local fresh produce for future urban communities.
The company (they only launched production three months ago) is using the VertiCrop™ growing system created by Alterrus to raise baby greens, arugula, basil, spinach, kales and bok choy in a system that cultivates 10 times the amount of crops as traditional agriculture in the same amount of space, but uses 90 percent less water and terrain. And it does so on top of a parking garage in the middle of downtown Vancouver.
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.
Hydroponic Urban Ag Startup Seeks to Create Scalable, Sustainable and Affordable Model to Feed CitiesDecember 4, 2012 | Melonie Magruder
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.
Scarcity of clean water poses an enormous threat to food security around the world. Both in the developing world, including China and India, and even here in the United States, farmers increasingly face the arduous challenge of obtaining sufficient clean water to grow crops. Faced with this daunting challenge, the team behind the GreenTop platform developed an innovative system that uses wind power to capture atmospheric water moisture, which in turn is used to grow fruits and vegetables hydroponically. By creating an affordable, scalable technology that relies solely on renewable energy, the GreenTop platform enables farmers to boost food production, particularly in developing countries where the climate is arid, arable land scarce and access to clean water limited.
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.
Making Most of Vacant Building, Urban Farming Org Hopes to Create Viable Indoor Food Production ModelSeptember 21, 2012 | Missy Smith
With the increasing rise in popularity of the local food movement in cities across the country, many people are getting creative about the spaces they use in order to bring fresh food to urban communities. Rooftop and community gardens have become major trends in recent years, but some people are thinking beyond outdoor spaces to include buildings that might otherwise continue to sit vacant.
FoodChain is one such organization that is thinking outside of the box, or garden plot, bringing an educational and demonstration facility—that will be teaching aquaponics, food processing and more—to the diverse downtown community of Lexington, Ky. The organization makes its home in the former Rainbo Bread Factory building, which operated downtown as early as the late 1800s and stayed in business for about 100 years.
However, researchers in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, along with faculty from New York University, soon will begin a study to examine the state of urban agriculture in the United States today.
Chris Bajuk got into urban farming almost by chance. Though not from a farming background, he has been gardening in backyards since childhood. And, in recent years he has been experimenting with hydroponic systems. “A good friend of mine, and classmate from the University of Washington MBA program, came over to my house and was awestruck by how much produce I was growing on my backyard deck using hydroponics,” says Bajuk, who was growing peas, beans, tomatillos, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, watermelon and corn in buckets. “He suggested we start an urban farming business,” he reflects. “Thus, UrbanHarvest was born.”
Cloud 9 Rooftop Farm founders Clare Hyre and Rania Campbell-Cobb are working to transform what is now an expanse of grey roof in Northwestern Philadelphia into a full-scale educational farm.
After years of working on farms around the country, Hyre and Campbell-Cobb landed in Philadelphia where they each work in the field of agriculture education. Hyre explained that both women found themselves dreaming of “a certain type of thing that didn’t exist in the city” – a way to farm within city limits and to share their love of growing food with other Philadelphians.
Over a decade ago, Chicago led the way for green roofs by covering the top of City Hall with 20,000 plants and more than 150 species. A series of grants followed and many green roofs cropped up across Chicago’s skyline. O’Hare Airport alone boasts a dozen green roofs including the top of the Control Tower and massive 190,000-square-foot FedEx Cargo Building. Now the city’s restaurants are beginning to green their rooftops as well, filling planters with organic herbs and vegetables in an effort to be green and deliver ultra local rooftop-to-plate fare to diners.