For many people, it’s difficult to believe that aeroponics — a type of soil-less farming featured in old episodes of Star Trek — is not science fiction. The reality is that this technology is already changing the agricultural landscape of the world, and companies such as AeroFarms, founded in 2004 by New York scientist Ed Harwood, are working to accelerate that change.
Five farmers in Brooklyn are out to set a record: to plant the largest commercial rooftop farm in New York City. Last week, the Brooklyn Grange team, with the help of volunteers and a rented crane, hauled 1.2 million pounds of a soil and compost shale mix from Pennsylvania to the top of a six-story warehouse building in Long Island City, Queens. The nearly one-acre rooftop space is the first of its kind in the city, and the Brooklyn Grange team hopes it will be the first of many.
Brooklyn’s Rooftop Gardens, run by Ben Flanner and Annie Novak, has seeded more than produce. It is helping an urban neighborhood develop its own food network.
This past October, as Annie Novak delivered her final workshop of the season, about 30 loyal volunteers and green roof enthusiasts sat atop the warehouse and listened in to the lessons learned from Rooftop Farms’ first harvest.
Novak says these plants grew well: peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, kale, swiss chard, and the herbs
And these not so much: The squash did terribly, Novak says, and she warns that the shallow soil (an average of 6 inches) reduced the number of fruits per plant
She shared lessons learned, like the tangles involved in mulching with organic hair.
As more and more individuals and groups set out to re-introduce gardens to urban areas — often citing WWII’s “Victory Gardens” as proof that a large percentage of our food can come from our back yards and vacant lots — the Detroit-headquartered Urban Farming wants to push edible plants into new spaces — like walls.