After almost nine years of planning and construction, the much-anticipated Whole Foods Brooklyn is set to open in December topped with the nation’s first commercial-scale rooftop greenhouse delivering hydroponically grown produce year-round.
The 20,000-square-foot solar-powered greenhouse is operated by Gotham Greens, an NYC-based urban farm with another location in Greenpoint.
Viraj Puri, co-founder and CEO of Gotham Greens said there’s lots of activity on the site and his company is very busy outfitting their greenhouse, which will have its first crop of greens ready in January.
“We will literally be able to walk produce downstairs, 365 days a year,” he said.
Does it get any more local than sending vegetables from the roof to supermarket shelves?
Typically, Gotham Greens is known for providing an array of pesticide-free greens, like red oak leaf lettuce and bok choy, and herbs to Whole Foods along with other retailers and restaurants in the city, but this location will also grow many varieties of tomatoes.
“We are diversifying the product,” Puri said. “Look for TOVs (tomatoes on vines), grape and cherry varieties.”
His company already produces about 100 tons of produce from the Greenpoint location and he anticipates another 150 tons from the new site.
Controlled-environment agriculture greenhouses, like this one, make growing easier and more reliable than growing crops on the land. Hydroponics skips the soil and offers ideal growing conditions creating yields up to 20 times higher than field production, according to Puri.
“It might take away some of the romanticism of family farming out on the land, but we get a level of precision in the greenhouse that produces great-tasting, fresh and interesting crops,” he said.
Puri is quick to point out that while the buzz is building, New Yorkers aren’t going to get all their fresh produce from green rooftops. Still, interest in hyperlocal produce is high from many businesses and cities across the country.
“If it’s successful, there’s potential to roll out this model to other urban areas,” Puri said.
And for those without a green thumb, you can still enjoy the view from the top of the store at The Roof, a beer bar featuring craft beers on tap along with a local menu of artisan foods from Brooklyn.