Back in early October, Gotham Greens announced it is partnering with Method Products PBC (a cleaning products company), to construct the world’s largest rooftop greenhouse. The facility will be placed atop Method’s Chicago manufacturing plant, which will be one of the first LEED-certified plants in its industry.
Greenhouse Management magazine spoke with Viraj Puri, CEO of Gotham Greens, about the partnership, the groundbreaking rooftop facility and his company.
Greenhouse Management: Tell us a little about Gotham Greens.
Viraj Puri: Gotham Greens is a Brooklyn, New York-based urban agriculture company founded in 2009 with the mission of growing premium quality, local and pesticide-free produce in cities. Gotham Greens has quickly become a worldwide pioneer in the growing urban agriculture industry and one of New York State’s leading greenhouse growers. We built our first greenhouse in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in 2011, which was the first facility of its kind in the United States. In early 2014, Gotham Greens opened its second greenhouse which is located on the rooftop of Whole Foods Market’s flagship Brooklyn store. Gotham Greens currently operates more than 35,000 square feet of greenhouse and grows more than 300 tons of fresh salad greens and herbs annually for the New York City market. We’re continuing to expand and our third and fourth farms that will open in 2015 in Queens, New York and Chicago, Illinois measuring 60,000 sq. ft. and 75,000 sq. ft., respectively.
GM: How did your partnership with Method come about?
VP: Method’s commitment to sustainability has made them a pioneer in the eco-friendly cleaning products industry and a popular household brand. Its mission and values are very much in line with our own. We mutually learned of one another’s greenhouse ambitions and it was a great match from the outset. Method had developed a plan to build a state of the art, LEED Platinum-certified manufacturing facility for its products in Chicago but also wanted to integrate food production into the plant. They were seeking a greenhouse partner who had the experience and ability to execute the design, construction and operations of a large scale rooftop greenhouse facility which led them to Gotham Greens.
GM: Was it your intention to create the world’s largest rooftop greenhouse?
VP: That was a decision that happened organically through our partnership with Method.
GM: What will you be growing in the rooftop greenhouse?
VP: Gotham Greens’ 75,000 square foot greenhouse in Chicago will grow a variety of salad greens, lettuce and herbs for the local retail and restaurant market. Leafy greens are highly perishable and are difficult to find locally year-round in the Chicago area.
GM: What growing method(s) will you employ?
VP: We will be growing our produce using hydroponic NFT.
GM: What are some of the unique challenges of growing in a rooftop environment?
VP: Cities lack arable land or fertile soil but do contain an abundance of unused rooftop space. We recognized this as a major opportunity and developed the concept for rooftop-integrated greenhouses. Many of the design and logistical challenges stem from being several stories up in the air. Architecture, engineering and permitting are unique challenges that greenhouse growers typically aren’t accustomed to. Despite being located in the urban environment, we still face many common agricultural pests found in rural greenhouse locations. Our integrated pest management program and use of beneficial insects allow us to maintain pesticide-free products.
GM: This is your first greenhouse outside of New York. Why did you choose Chicago and why are you expanding now?
VP: Chicago has an incredible local food culture and has also shown great leadership in green building and urban farming over the years. Chicago, like New York, has long winters when there’s a dearth of availability of fresh produce. Given the thriving local food scene, growing demand for local produce and the geographical considerations, Chicago was a logical next step. Plus, the founding partners of Gotham Greens all have personal ties to the city so from the beginning, Chicago felt like a natural fit for our company’s expansion. We’ve proven our model multiple times in New York City and are now ready to take it on the road to other urban locations.
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