Gotham Greens Lifts Fresh Veggies to New Heights

 

Nestled between towering skyscrapers and the Brooklyn Bridge, rests a vegetative oasis ripe for the picking. 

Gotham Greens, a hydroponics greenhouse facility, sits on a warehouse rooftop and brings new meaning to the phrase "locally grown" – especially atop a 15,000-square-foot manufacturing building in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Founded by Viraj Puri and Eric Haley in 2008, Gotham Greens has been fully operational since June 2011. Because of its rooftop positioning and location, the “farm in the sky” can harvest 365 days a year.

Hydroponics, also known as urban farming, replaces traditional harvesting methods by using nutrient- rich, recycled water to harvest plants nixing soil altogether. Instead, most urban farmers, adopt a Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) where a shallow stream of water containing plant growing nutrients re-circulates through channels past plant roots.

“We capture and re-circulate all of the irrigation water for reuse, so it’s the most water efficient form of agriculture available,” said Jennifer Nelkin, greenhouse director. Nelkin joined the venture in 2009 and heads all greenhouse operations.

As the nation’s first commercial scale urban hydroponics greenhouse, founders not only wanted to focus on urban farming, but maximize sustainable operations. The warehouse is solar-powered by 60 kilowatt solar panels situated on the roof, while indoors the facility has natural ventilation powering roof vent motors, shade curtains, and  all irrigation is captured and re-circulated making it a water efficient form of agriculture.

All of the climate controlled technologies combined with hydroponics allow the urban farm to produce about 10,000 heads of lettuce a week – roughly 100 tons a year.  The controlled environment agriculture uses 10 times less water and 20 times less land than traditional harvesting methods.

“We’re producing crops and delivering it within 24 hours, definitely making it the freshest product on the market – the shelf life is passed on to the consumer,” said Nelkin. “By being the freshest, it’s also the most flavorful and nutritious.”

Gotham Greens does have the actual seeds imported from distribution centers across the nation – including Fort Worth-based hydroponics distribution facility, Hort Americas.

The harvesting cycle is quick. According to Nelkin, when you give the plants a really root and shoot environment, you can go from seed to full head in just a little over a month. The exact time frame varies from seed to seed, but the estimate is about a month per leafy green.

The urban farm started only harvesting salad greens and herbs including bok choy, baby butterhead lettuce, Bibb lettuce, Tropicana green leaf lettuce, Red Snails red leaf, Swiss chard and basil. But, these are just starting points. The trio is already looking to offer more vegetables and may begin sprouting tomatoes in the near future. The greenhouse will accommodate the new veggies by expanding the size of its facility in 2012. 

The “farm in the sky” is already distributing produce to local New York City markets including Whole Foods, D’Agostino, Union Market, Fresh Direct, Eataly and more. 

About the Author

Christina Miralla is the associate content editor for 1105 Media, Inc. She can be reached at cmiralla@1105media.com.

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