While my last post discussed rooftop agriculture on a residential scale, I’ve followed the NY Times breadcrumb trail and stumbled upon a phenomenally larger version of these elevated farms. Apparently Brooklyn is on its way to sustainability stardom, with construction starting this fall on what developers claim will break records as the largest rooftop farm in the country, and maybe even the world.
The NY Times reports that greenhouse developer Bright Farms is utilizing hydroponic technology to build a 100,000 square foot farm on the roof of a former Navy warehouse in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Empty since 2000, this enormous building stands at 1.1 million square feet and is slated for reincarnation as a light industrial use facility. According to the article, the greenhouse will stand 20 feet high atop the 8 story building and produce about 1 million pounds of food each year for New York restaurants and grocery stores.
Wikipedia describes hydroponics as “a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil.” There are many benefits to hydroponic agriculture, such as higher growth rates, greater yield per plant, less water use, and fewer pests, which results in reduced or eliminated pesticides. Bright Farms points out that rather than consuming New York’s water resources, the Sunset Park greenhouse will divert about 1.8 million gallons of storm water each year, alleviating the city’s sewer system, which is subject to overflow in heavy storms.
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has championed the revision of city zoning laws to support large scale rooftop agriculture, resulting in a proposed amendment last year by the City Planning Department to exclude greenhouses on commercial building roofs from height and floor-area regulations. With support from the public and private sector, as well as the community, these hydroponic rooftop greenhouses could be a major step toward both sustainability and reduced food costs for New Yorkers.