The current U.S. agriculture model is not sustainable. It is losing more than one acre of farmland a minute to development and causes the erosion of four billion tons of topsoil per year.
It accounts for 82% of fresh water use while our major water sources such as the Ogallala Aquifer, Lake Mead and the Colorado River are running dry. The global need for water will exceed the global supply by 40 percent by the year 2030. Without water, you cannot grow crops, and without water, we cannot live.
It contributes heavily to global warming which is triggering extreme drought, hurricanes and wildfires around the globe. It generates 13% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions partially caused by the large increase in the use of nitrogen fertilizer for the production of high nitrogen consuming crops like corn; 61% percent of agricultural emissions are caused by soil management. Fresh vegetables travel 1,500 – 2,500 miles and more to reach urban consumers, causing more pollution to the atmosphere. A good portion of the food transported is lost in spoilage and the green vegetables that made the journey unscathed have lost their nutritional value by the time they traveled from the field to your plate.
The world’s population is expected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050 and food production must increase by 44% to meet the need. It is estimated that 70% of the population will be urban compared to 49% today.
How can we meet the need while keeping the planet and its population safe?
One solution, according to Sky Vegetables, is the development of urban, commercial hydroponic rooftop farms. Why not utilize the thousands of acres of flat roofs in our cities to grow fresh, local, safe, pesticide free, nutritious, herbs, fruits and vegetables? It is where our populations are increasing while our food comes from farther and farther away. Why not grow fresh food in our cities that are not subject to the costs and issues of transportation, the cost of oil or water, drought, and force majeure?
The history of hydroponics dates as far back as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Formal research and publications on hydroponics began in the 17th century. It is not new technology. NASA has done extensive hydroponic research for their Controlled Ecological Life Support System.
Sky Vegetables utilizes existing green technologies in biological sciences to increase crop production while using substantially less water, fuel and carbon than conventional farming methods to produce fresh, nutritious and chemical-free vegetables 365 days a year. Sky Vegetables controlled environment rooftop farms produce yields 15-20 times greater than soil based farms using 5-10% of the water. The company’s innovative approach meets the growing demands of urban communities for safe, affordable, fresh and locally grown produce.
Benefits to buildings for having a rooftop hydroponic farm include increased energy efficiency, reduced utility and sewer costs, and insulation in winter, LEED credits, sunlight absorption in summer and yes, very positive public relations. Sky Vegetables rooftop farms capture the rain and use it to feed its plants. Building owners will save the cost of maintaining or replacing the roofs of their properties. Green roofs will lower the heat island effect – where urban surfaces that were once tree-lined and moist are replaced by dry concrete, raising the temperature in our cities. Cities are amending their zoning laws to allow agriculture on the roofs. This revolutionary use of roofs has so many positives.
Cities benefit by having locally grown food all year long, which is where the majority of the population is projected to live. In addition the farms will provide improved nutrition, green jobs, improved air quality and educational opportunities.
The economic, environmental and social advantages include reduced greenhouse gas emissions, reduced fossil fuel use, the conversion of non-usable space into food production centers, no crop failure due to drought, frost, floods, storms or pests, and reduced water usage.
A replicable model of excellence is Sky Vegetables’ recently constructed 8,000 square-foot rooftop greenhouse built on top of a new affordable housing development in the Bronx, NY. It is the first example of commercial hydroponic agriculture integrated into a residential structure. The farm provides fresh, local, nutritious, pesticide-free vegetables to the residents of the building and the local neighborhood, which is a food desert. It has a CSA, sells to local restaurants, local markets, donates to local food banks and provides educational opportunities for the schools and green jobs for community members.
Help Us Make A Difference
While the U.S. Department of Agriculture strongly supports Sky Vegetables, its policies and area of focus is on rural farms. Ours is on urban farms. There is a need to reform the Farm Bill where over 75% of the federal support goes to the large mega farms. We need to create support for the urban farmers that can grow food 365 days per year in urban rooftop greenhouses and supply local, fresh, nutritious food to improve the health and safety of our citizens and their children.
The stakes are very high. You hold the future and your children’s future in your hands. Urban Agriculture is an emerging industry with a triple bottom line message.
Sky Vegetables is about green roofs, green jobs, and fresh local food all year long.
Good for you – Good for the planet!Robert N. Fireman is CEO at Sky Vegetables, Inc.