if you’ve been following method news, you may already know that method is opening a new soap factory in Chicago. designed to be the industry’s first LEED-platinum certified plant, our factory has a host of green features, including a 75,000-square-foot greenhouse where urban agriculture company Gotham Greens will be growing fresh produce for the local community. we sat down with Nicole, marketing + partnerships manager at Gotham Greens, to talk about sustainability, eggplant dreams + what’s expected to be the largest rooftop farm in the world.
so, tell us a little bit about Gotham Greens…
Gotham Greens is an urban agriculture company that builds + operates commercial-scale greenhouses in urban areas for year-round vegetable production. since building the nation’s first commercial-scale hydroponic urban greenhouse in 2011, we’ve quickly become a worldwide pioneer in the field of urban agriculture + one of New York’s leading producers of premium-quality, greenhouse-grown vegetables.
the greenhouse atop the method soap factory will be Gotham Greens’ first greenhouse outside of New York—why Chicago?
we’re so excited to be partnering with method on our facility in Chicago and believe that, together, we can really make a positive impact in the community. our greenhouse will contribute full-time green collar jobs while also being a community resource to the south side of Chicago, which is currently a food desert. plus, I look forward to exploring collaborations with the local school systems, farmer’s markets and restaurants…did I mention I’m a big fan of Chicago’s deep dish pizza?
speaking of tomatoes, what do you mean when you say your produce is grown sustainably?
when compared to conventional agriculture, Gotham Greens’ farming practices are extremely water efficient, using 20 times less land and 10 times less water. we’re also able to eliminate fertilizer runoff—one of the leading causes of global water pollution.
and here’s a fun fact: even though our farms are built in cities we still have to deal with pests and bugs just like traditional farms. we combat aphids + other common agricultural pests by releasing beneficial insects into our greenhouses to create our own mini ecosystem. this enables us to fight off pesky bugs that eat our lettuces without having to use any type of pesticides. in fact, each week we release at least 10,000 beneficial insects into each of our greenhouses. we also keep bees in our tomato room to help with the pollination.
aside from the insects, what do you think makes Gotham Greens so special?
it’s estimated that by 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities, which poses a really important question: how will we all be fed? we believe that our water-efficient, pesticide-free model will have a real role to play in addressing food scarcity issues around the world.
cities don’t have a lot of arable land or fertile soil but they do have a lot of rooftop space. in places like NYC and Chicago where we have harsh seasons, most of the greens we eat during the winter have been shipped across the country and their taste and nutritional value is often compromised. Gotham Greens focuses on growing highly perishable produce such as lettuce + basil since these seasonal greens usually travel the furthest. all of our farms are located in cities, meaning we’re growing our produce in close proximity to the customers who will be consuming it. so we can literally harvest in the morning and deliver our produce to customers the same day, 365 days a year.
when can Chicago expect to get their Gotham Greens?
our facility is scheduled to open in the spring of 2015 and will be the world’s largest rooftop farm. Chicago residents can expect to find Gotham Greens produce in stores as well as through their local farmer’s markets or community organizations. our premium-quality leafy greens will be available year-round, so Chicagoans will have access to fresh salad greens and herbs even in the middle of winter!
last, but not least, what’s your favorite vegetable?
eggplant. it’s so versatile and meaty. I love it grilled, fried, baked or even smoked—chef’s choice. we’re experimenting with growing tomatoes in our rooftop farm at Whole Foods Market in Brooklyn, NY, but if I had it my way, we’d also be growing these bright purple gems. I don’t foresee us growing eggplant anytime soon, but a girl can dream.