A Globalized Food System

The current industrial agricultural model has benefited human populations (above all else) over the last century, taking the human population from approximately 1.6 billion people in the early 1900’s to over 7 billion people on 31st of October 2011. The widespread clearance of land across all continents for agriculture, combined with the use of heavy machinery and artificial fertilizers, has contributed to the widespread exploitation of the planet and ecosystems on a scale never seen before.

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Long Distance Supply Chains Unsustainable

A study by the Centre for Environmental Studies (CERES) out of Australia examined how far the average basket of goods travelled to get to the consumer. It was established that the basket of regular goods travelled a total of 70,803 km, equivalent to travelling nearly twice around the circumference of the Earth (40,072 km). The data-collected total greenhouse gas emissions estimate for all food trucks transporting all road-transported food items, over the total road transport distance, was 16, 989 tonnes (t) CO2–e. If all the food trucks were transporting all food items on the same day, the emissions from this one day of transportation (16, 989 t CO2–e), is equivalent to 4,247 cars driving for one year. (1)

Increased Urbanization

According to the UN, more people live globally in urban areas than in rural areas. 54 per cent of the world’s population resided in urban areas in 2014. In 1950, 30 per cent of the world’s population lived in urban environments. By 2050, it is projected 66 per cent of the world’s population will live in an urban setting. Today, the most urbanized regions of the world include Northern America (82 per cent living in urban areas in 2014), Latin America and the Caribbean (80 per cent), and Europe (73 per cent). This rapid transformation from rural to urban has occurred in the last century, correlating with the growth and exploitation of fossil fuels and the abundance of cheap energy. (2)

Gotham Greens to the Rescue

With such a high rate of urbanization in many countries, growing food in urban settings is going to be a priority over the coming decades. Enter, no not Batman, Gotham Greens. Where others see rooftops, Gotham Greens see green fields, blooming communities and high quality fresh produce. Gotham Greens designs, builds, and operates commercial scale greenhouse facilities in urban areas for fresh vegetable production. Since commencing production in early 2011, Gotham Greens has quickly become a worldwide pioneer in the field of urban agriculture and one of New York State’s leading producers of premium-quality, greenhouse-grown vegetables and herbs. (3) 

Gotham Greens was inspired by innovation and technology, driven by a sense of duty to address ecological issues facing our agricultural system, and motivated by a farmer’s penchant for challenge. Gotham Greens grows lettuce, basil, bok choy, arugula, swiss chard, and tomatoes, all from their rooftop facilities. All the produce is pesticide-free and grown using ecologically sustainable methods. Apart from producing highly nutritious vegetables and herbs, the team at Gotham Greens is serious about preserving water and soil resources, biodiversity, reducing harmful chemical use in food production, fair treatment of workers, and ensuring dollars are spent within the local economy.

  • In 2011 Gotham Greens completed a 15,000 ft2 facility, the nation’s first commercial scale rooftop greenhouse, producing 100 tons of produce/ year
  • In 2013 Gotham Greens completed its second rooftop greenhouse, a 20,000 ft’ facility on top of Whole Foods Market Brooklyn, yielding 200 tons of produce/ year
  • In 2015 Gotham Greens launched its third rooftop greenhouse in Queens, NYC measuring 60,000 ft2 which will yield approx. appox 625 tons per year

Why is Gotham Greens Important?

The CEO of Gotham Greens Viraj Puri believes, “the over-industrialization of agriculture has led to a huge disconnect between urban consumers and producers on how food is grown, processed and transported. By growing locally and regionally, consumers can better connect and understand their food supply. Locally grown and supplied can also boost nutrition, create and jobs and other economic and educational opportunities in our communities, and encourage consumers to spend their dollars closer to home.

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Addressing food waste is another very important role that urban agriculture can play. Long distance transport associated with trucking food across the country and the food waste that results is staggering. An estimated 40% of food grown, processed and transported in the US gets thrown out before it even reaches our plates!

Last, modern agribusiness relies too heavily on natural resources like soil, water, and energy and a heavy dependence on chemical inputs. Local, sustainable agriculture can help address those issues.  The farming methods at Gotham Greens use a fraction of the resources compared to conventional agriculture. Gotham Greens take a holistic approach to growing practices and use Non GMO seeds, recycled H2O and clean energy. All of their produce is pesticide free and all fertilizer runoff that normally goes into groundwater (a major source of global water pollution), is eliminated.” (3a)

The Largest Rooftop Farm in the World

In 2015 Gotham Greens launched its fourth rooftop greenhouse in Chicago, IL measuring 75,000ft2 which will produce approx. 1000 tons. Chicago is also considered “The world’s largest rooftop farm”. Gotham Greens urban agriculture venture will sit atop a new manufacturing plant that will also be a global first. The Method Products facility, which produces nontoxic, biodegradable natural cleaning supplies, will be the home for this huge rooftop facility. It is a win-win for both companies before even taking into consideration the carbon offsetting benefits the facility will bring and green credibility for Method Products. When compared to conventional agriculture, Gotham Greens’ irrigation techniques will use 20 times less land and 10 times less water. It will also eliminate the need for pesticide use and fertiliser runoff. (4)  

Check out the Gotham Greens operation in Brooklyn.

Article by Andrew Martin, author of  Rethink…Your world, Your future. and One ~ A Survival Guide for the Future… 

RethinkcoverCE2Excerpts from Rethink…Your world, Your future.

(1) http://www.theage.com.au/ed_docs/food_miles.pdf

(2) http://esa.un.org/unpd/wup/Highlights/WUP2014-Highlights.pdf

(3) http://gothamgreens.com/our-story/

(3a) Personal correspondence with Viraj Puri CEO Gotham Greens

(4) http://cleantechnica.com/2014/10/08/urban-agriculture-grows-into-worlds-largest-rooftop-farm/

Cover Image: courtesy Gotham Greens

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