Gotham Greens: Rooftop Urban Agriculture

Fresh and local produce may be just steps from your urban domicile, but you’ll have to look up to discover it. Urban agricultural systems have evolved to explore vertical and rooftop farming to meet both current and projected urban population growth’s food demands.

While community gardens have been staples in most cities, commercial farming in urban areas has not seemed possible due to a lack of viable soils and the cost of real estate. Small operations have not been self-sustaining and have relied on the subsidies and generosity of organizations such as churches or restaurants. In response to the local and organic food movement, rooftop farming may now be a viable option in areas of exceptional density such as New York City.

Gotham Greens’ rooftop farm in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with New York City as its backdrop. From here.
Gotham Greens is the largest commercial farm housed entirely on a rooftop. The company began harvesting organic produce on the roof of a bowling alley in Brooklyn this past summer. Growing produce hydroponically in greenhouses, they provide local greens year-round to markets and restaurants in the city. Although operating during a testing period funded by investors, Gotham Greens’ outlook for financial sustainability is promising. And this remarkable model for urban commercial agriculture is just as encouraging.

As urban densities and demands for food increase, designers will look for more efficient and creative means to meet these needs. Green skyscrapers designed with plant material wrapping through stories and atriums have not been uncommon. Nor are planned community gardens for adjacent residential populations and other measures to weave green areas throughout cities. Now we can also include productive rooftop agriculture as a viable urban strategy.

About Melinda McMillan

Working in both her fields since graduating with two master degrees in architecture and landscape architecture from the University of Pennsylvania, Melinda also writes about design and social justice, and consults for a non-profit. She has received awards for both her design work and writing. Recent architectural work include a healing garden at a cancer center and a masterplan for a school and orphanage in Haiti. Other projects are in the high-tech, religious, and medical arenas.

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