95 percent of US food travels 1,000 miles to reach our dinner plates. The percentage of money we spend on food has been on the decline for the past 57 years as we continue to settle for lower quality food and food that is more mass produced than ever before. BrightFarm Systems and Better Food Solutions intend to change this in an exciting way - rooftop farming directly atop grocery stores.
Percentage of Money We Spend on Food: On the Decline for 57 Years
The New York hydroponics firm, Better Food Solutions, plans to install a network of hydroponic greenhouses on the roofs of a number of grocery stores throughout the U.S. this year. Better Food Solutions is also behind BrightFarm Systems, a commercial design consultancy that provides technical support for rooftop farming, as well as "The Greenhouse Project," a program dedicated to improving environmental science in urban schools.
Better Food Solutions Envisions Rooftop Farms Like This Above Grocery Stores Across the U.S.
By financing and supporting each rooftop farm, Better Food Solutions will oversee staff and maintenance crews and contractually bind the partnering grocery store to solely purchase the produce growing above the store. Unlike traditional rooftop farming, the building-owner is not responsible for the design, construction, and maintenance costs. Since transportation and preservation costs are essentially eliminated, Better Food Solutions claims to offer considerably low pricing.
Six undisclosed locations across the nation have been solidified by Better Food Solutions for their pilot program. Most of the hydroponic technology will use Nutrient Film Technique and Dutch buckets; however, the company says climate control is responsible for most of the creativity. In that respect, a micro-climate will be afforded to each greenhouse.
BrightFarm and Better Food Solution: Plans for Fresher, More Locally Grown Produce
As a produce stand and farmer's market regular, I was concerned how this innovative concept might affect our already dwindling local farmers. However, Better Farm Solutions explicitly states that rather than compete with local farmers, they want to work with them. As their network expands, more farmers will be needed to work in the greenhouses, and the group intends to utilize members of the local farming community for assistance. I would also think that not everything can be farmed on the rooftop of a grocery store (like livestock for example), so hopefully local farms can maintain business in other ways.
To prove the need for rooftop grocery store farming, BrightFarm uses the life of a head of lettuce as an example. One head of lettuce, a vegetable known to perish quickly, grows on 30 acres of land in California. The farmers use pesticides to control infestation as well as greenhous gases and oil to supply energy for farming. Oil-based fertilizer is used to boost growth and production. Vast amounts of water, already scarce in California, are used to nourish the lettuce. Once the lettuce reaches maturity, two drivers are paid to drive gasoline-powered trucks for 5 days from California to New York. The lettuce must be refrigerated at 34 degrees, using more oil and greenhouse gases. Finally, the lettuce reaches the retailer.
BrightFarm and Better Food Solution: The Most Locally Grown, Freshest Food Possible
However, with above-store, rooftop farming, NONE of that is necessary. Lettuce is grown directly at the retailer, which eliminates the aspects of land-use and transportation. BrightFarms eliminates the current model's inefficient use of time, distance, and costs. Shelf-life is three times longer. Food safety concerns are practically eradicated. The only way to get fresher, more locally grown produce would be to grow it yourself.
Sources: Better Food Solutions and Inhabitat