A 100,000 square foot (2.3 acre) farm is coming to a rooftop Sunset Park. The soil-free, hydroponic greenhouse farm will be the largest rooftop farm on the planet. The farm, a project from NYC-based startup Brightfarms in partnership with real estate developers Salmar Properties, will operate in all seasons, producing up to a million pounds of tomatoes, lettuces and herbs each year.
The farm will rise on the rooftop of the evocatively-named Federal Building #2, a former warehouse built in 1916 for the Navy. Construction is set to begin this fall, with farm’s first harvest expected next spring.
Gotham Greens, has been operating a 20,000 square foot hydroponic greenhouse farm on a Greenpoint rooftop since last spring, and produces about 160,000 pounds of produce each year. And they’re not stopping there. In what could be the beginning of a hydroponic rooftop greenhouse farm arms race of sorts, the New York Times reports that Gotham Greens plans to open three new facilities in 2013, expanding their total growing space to 200,000 square feet, twice that of the Brightfarms project.
There is some controversy about flavor when it comes to hydroponically-grown versus soil-grown greens. Some chefs argue that while produce grown in the nutrient-dense embrace of living soil displays richer flavor than that grown in nutrient-supplemented water baths, while other argue that the freshness factor trumps all, and produce harvested at the hydroponic greenhouse farms can be in restaurant kitchens and on supermarket shelves in a matter of hours. The NY Times took a hard look at the debate last year.
While no one will argue with the undeniable awesomeness of giant greenhouse farms spreading across rooftops of Brooklyn, those hydroponic flavor skeptics can rest easy. Brooklyn Grange, Eagle Street Rooftop Farm and Red Hook’s Added Value Farm (not to mention the hundreds of local farmers at the city’s farmers markets) all grow in soil and can get their produce to your plate just as fast as the greenhouse guys…for seven months out of the year, anyway.
Brightfarms’ master plan is to bring the freshest possible produce to consumers everywhere, by building rooftop greenhouse farms atop grocery stores nationwide. CEO Paul Lightfoot dropped a pretty inspiring address at TEDxManhattan in January. Here’s a look: