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Gotham Greens Partners Photo: Gotham Greens and Mark Weinberg
Gotham Greens Partners Photo: Gotham Greens and Mark Weinberg

Lifestyle

Urban agriculture - the future of farming

The farm-to-table movement is gathering pace at restaurants worldwide. And now, urban agriculture is starting to take off with restaurants using all kinds of novel ways to battle climate change.

Late last year, a 7,000-square meter greenhouse was opened in central Chicago. Where did they find that much space, you may ask? The answer is on top of a soap factory.

It’s the largest urban farming initiative in the world and follows several similar but smaller facilities in New York, all built and run by Gotham Greens. “We believe that urban agriculture has a role to play in the future of a more sustainable and fair food system,” says Viraj Puri, CEO and co-founder.

And he’s not alone in his belief. There is currently a worldwide buzz about how the food industry has to step up in order to battle climate change. According to numbers from the American Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, the agriculture business accounts for 9% of greenhouse gas emissions in the US alone. But Anthony Myint, entrepreneur, restaurateur and climate activist, says it’s way more than that.

“Food is a large part of climate change. It accounts for 30% of it, in terms of production, and if you include deforestation related to food, it’s up another 20%. It makes sense for all of us to be thinking about what we’re eating,” he adds.

Myint runs the The Peren­nial restaurant in San Francisco. He is also the co-founder of Zero Foodprint, a non-profit that highlights environmental improvements in the food chain.

Hydroponics, which involves growing vegetables in water instead of soil, is one such improvement and one that is being carried out by Gotham Greens.

“Our farming practices use a fraction of the amount of resources used in traditional soil-based farming, while being extremely productive and efficient,” says Puri. “It’s pesticide-­free produce, grown using ecologically-sustainable methods in technologically-sophisticated, 100% clean-energy powered, rooftop greenhouses.”

The Perennial restaurant, meanwhile, uses a system called aquaponics, which means that the water used in their greenhouse comes from a fish tank where the fish served in the restaurant are bred and the fish’s excreta provides a natural nutrient for the plants.

“What works for some might not work for all,” says Myint. “But we feel that it is very necessary to champion the reversal of climate change and think outside the box.

“I just heard of a restaurant in France using solar powered cooking,” he adds. “It might not make sense here in San Francisco, but it would in Arizona.”

 

Text: Henrik Ek

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