As the global community considers the interwoven issues of food access, resource scarcity, increased urbanization and climate change, innovation in the agriculture sector is blossoming. We’re going to continue to highlight important projects and scientific developments in agriculture that help address those problems.
And sometimes, those answers are very simple ones.
Earlier this summer, New York City became home to the nation’s first commercial urban hydroponic greenhouse. Gotham Greens, the company that operates the 15,000 square-foot facility in Brooklyn, has harvested and delivered the first of its 100 annual tons of local and organic vegetables and herbs. The rooftop facility, which runs on 55-kilowatt solar panels, provides year-round produce for nearby New York grocers. This means the company can supply local lettuce, even in the dead of winter, to New Yorkers.
There are myriad benefits to urban hydroponics. Many of the problems with conventional agriculture are solved in this controlled environment. The facility uses 10 times less land and 20 times less water compared to conventional agriculture. Pesticide use and fertilizer runoff are eliminated. The company’s strict food safety program ensures that food will not be contaminated by E. coli or Salmonella. And because the food is grown and distributed in New York City, transportation costs are minimal and far less carbon dioxide is emitted than conventionally-sourced food, which travels, on average, 1,500 miles.
The greenhouse is “on a pretty sophisticated computer control system that has sensors all over the place and will deploy lights and fans and shade curtains and heat blankets and irrigation pumps automatically,” according to the Co-Founder and CEO Viraj Puri.
This type of innovative, tech-smart, urban agriculture is an important model to consider as we try to figure out how to feed a growing global population with limited resources.
— Cole Mellino is an intern on the energy team with the Center for American Progress