A tremendous amount of energy goes into distributing the food we’re able to put on our plates. But while most of it is produced for transportability, it’s not necessarily grown for quality, flavor, or nutrition. Brooklyn-based startup Edenworks is preparing to fix the food supply chain with its 800 sq ft aquaponic rooftop greenhouse, Farmlab.
Launched in late 2013 by bioengineer Jason Green, architect Ben Silverman, and fabricator Matt La Rosa, Edenworks is currently running a hand-constructed research and development greenhouse on the roof of a metalworking shop in Brooklyn, adjacent to their headquarters.
Based on the concept of vertical farming, in which plants are stacked on inclined surfaces so they can grow within compact spaces, Edenworks’ ecosystem contains five tiers of growing beds. Unlike traditional farming or hydroponics, the variety of leafy greens and herbs get their nutrients and water from huge tanks filled with tilapia and freshwater prawns, which are beneath the rows of plants.
Water is carried up to the top of the ecosystem, filtering through beneficial bacteria to break down the wastewater into fertilizer before it turns into five-star plant food. The water is cleaned as it moves through the stacks and then pumped back into the tanks below. This system also uses 90 percent less water and energy than traditional farming, which increases efficiency and has a positive environmental impact.
Edenworks uses sensors to gauge environmental conditions of the greenhouse, such as air and water temperature, humidity, pH levels and dissolved oxygen levels, in real time via an app called Greenhouse OS.
Data uploaded into the company’s system helps make sense of the biological factors behind the plant growth, predicts future environmental conditions, and even directs farmers with daily task lists—all to ensure consistently flavorful and high-quality crops are grown efficiently. As more farmers use the app, the algorithm will grow even more accurate for optimizing farming conditions for crops.
Images courtesy of Edenworks
Edenworks believes that the solution to better food production can be found in making agriculture part of urban design. Beyond testing and optimizing food production at its earliest stage through technology, the company could make a bigger impact on the lives of consumers by becoming an everyday food source for the general population. A second, larger iteration of the Edenworks farming infrastructure is in the works with the development of a full-scale commercial growing system in Long Island City, Queens early next year.
While they’ve been selling produce and herbs to New York restaurants, they’ve also been talking with some institutions around the world who want to install their own greenhouses. Edenworks’ prefabricated, flat packed, and shipped to site farmstack system can be assembled like an Ikea project. As technology decreases and more greenhouses are worked into development plans, stacked farming systems could be the wave of the future for food production atop apartment buildings, schools, and other institutions in an urban environment.
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