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photo from the Gotham Greens website

Green Acres! A view of the rooftop at Gotham Greens. Photo courtesy Gotham Greens website.

by Joanna Shaw Flamm

What do you get when you take local food, mix it with robots, and add a dash of business savvy? You get Gotham Greens, the hydroponic rooftop farm in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Wait, robots? Apparently, this isn’t your grandparents’ farm. Gotham Greens is a high-tech greenhouse founded by Viraj Puri and Eric Haley and directed by Jennifer Nelkin. The rooftop farm uses the latest technology to grow pesticide-free lettuces, greens, and basil, all without any soil, a process called hydroponics. Their website explains:

“Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions. Nutrients are delivered to the plant in irrigation water, eliminating soil. Water is re-circulated and none is wasted.”

According to Fast Company, “hydroponics uses 10 times less water than traditional farming, with higher crop yields.” Gotham Greens also notes that the sterile environment helps cut down on food-borne illnesses like E. coli.

The team behind Gotham Greens has taken a lot of the guesswork out of farming. Advanced computer systems allow them to control for heating, cooling, irrigation and plant nutrition, all from a room next door to their fledgling lettuces. This translates into both energy savings and improved product quality–what most farmers wouldn’t give to have atmosphere control!

With a 56 kW on-site solar PV system, Gotham Greens is helping to meet its own energy needs, and by growing produce within city limits, they’re cutting way down on gas and pollution from transportation. They’re also attracting quite a bit of attention, not only from the food world, but also from the business world: both Business Insider and Fast Company have profiled the greenhouse, which just started harvesting last month.

Could Gotham Greens be paving the way forward for environmentally conscious agri-business? We’ll be excited to follow their progress as they move forward. In the meantime, you can find their lettuces at Whole Foods and Union Markets across the city. As for price? Business Insider says they’re “the same price as comparable products and cheaper than the organic greens.” Sounds like a slam dunk!

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