Editor’s note: We kicked off our first annual Food Loves Tech event last summer in Chelsea—here’s a recap. We’re bringing a taste of the food and farming future back this year, but just across the East River at Industry City. Leading up to the event, this story is part of an ongoing series about technology’s effects on our food supply.
For those looking to learn where their produce comes from and how it’s grown, hyper-local growers Gotham Greens are offering summer tours of their pioneering rooftop farm above Whole Foods Gowanus. And the operation is a stunner.
From an observation deck just outside Whole Foods’ Roof Café, the viewer beholds a wall of windows and, beyond, an expanse of young greens stretching out 20,000 square feet into the distance. The lettuces and herbs are all hydroponically grown on elegant white channels, where they’re coddled for 30 to 40 days from seed to harvest, then gathered and ported to fine restaurants and grocers across town or perhaps just down to the Whole Foods below. It seems like the future of food gone right.
Participants are restricted to the deck for reasons of food safety and are advised to keep clear of the space-age climate-controlling windows, which throughout the tour will inch open and close as determined by sensors to maintain optimal light, temperature and CO2 levels within the greenhouse.
Tour guide Julie McMahon tells the small rapt audience (tours are limited to 30 people) of Gotham Greens’ launch, methods and vision. We learn of how the spaces are powered by renewable electricity; how their non-GMO and pesticide-, insecticide- and herbicide-free yield is 25 to 30 times greater than conventional rooftop farms; and of their 2015 expansion to Chicago, where 75,000 square feet of unused city space is now an urban field of greens, the world’s largest rooftop farm. But take the tour and discover the wonders for yourself.
A final thing made clear by the presentation is the organization’s commitment to community. In keeping with its good business ethos, Gotham Greens has a giveaway program where, via nonprofits like GreenThumb, New York Restoration Project, Green Bronx Machine and others, seedlings make their way to local community and school gardens. According to McMahon, Gotham Greens is actively seeking out additional community partners and can be reached at [email protected] for more information. Who knows, the future of Gotham Greens seedlings may be in a garden of your own.
Featured photo credit: Ari Burling.