Seedstock Digest: Hydroponic Greenhouses Atop Super Markets, An Aeroponic System in a Grade School Classroom, Rooftop Aquaponics and more!June 16, 2011 | Robert Puro
It’s Urban ‘Ponic Wednesday at Seedstock and that means we are featuring articles that we wrote on urban agriculture startups that are making use of hydroponic, aeroponic and aquaponic systems. So check them out and get your ‘Ponic on!
In spring 2009 Nikhil Arora and Alex Velez were in their final semester at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business headed toward careers in consulting and banking when a remark made by a professor about the potential for growing mushrooms with used coffee grounds piqued their interest. With a desire to create a socially responsible and sustainable business that could make use of the millions of tons (~24 million tons per year) of used coffee grounds that go almost entirely to waste each year, the two classmates decided to further investigate the idea. What emerged from their research and consultations with mycology experts was Back to the Roots Ventures (BTTR), a startup company focused on sustainably farming gourmet mushrooms in used coffee grounds.
From the creators of the Science Barge, the floating hydroponic greenhouse project supporting sustainable food production and powered 100% by renewable energy, comes a new company that builds, designs, finances, and operates hydroponic greenhouse farms on supermarket rooftops. It’s called BrightFarms. By growing produce on site, the company enables grocery retailers to alter their produce supply chain in a way that improves the planet and their profits.
Students at St. Philip’s Academy, an independent K-8 school in Newark, NJ grow their own salad greens. They use an aeroponic growing system installed in a fourth-floor classroom in which they plant, harvest and package such leafy greens as Chinese lettuce, arugula and komatsuna for delivery to their cafeteria. “It’s kind of amazing – it doesn’t get more local than this,” said Frank Mentesana, a St. Philip’s Teacher and Program Facilitator.
St. Philip’s aeroponic growing system is part of a pilot project being managed and run by an urban farming startup called EcoVeggies to trial a growing system developed by AeroFarms
Mike Yohay, CEO of San Francisco-based urban agriculture startup Cityscape Farms, was raised in Brooklyn, NY where he grew up with almost no knowledge of where his food came from or how it was grown. This all changed for Yohay when he went off to study at Grinnel College in Iowa. There he saw firsthand the pollution and topsoil erosion caused by large-scale agribusiness operations. He was also troubled by the fact that despite its rich soil, Iowa exported most of the food that it produced and imported most of the food that it consumed. Yohay also worked in Costa Rica’s La Amistad rainforest, where he participated in low-impact organic farming that supported a local community.