It’s like no other farm you’ve ever seen. The crops are lettuce, basil, and microgreens — young vegetables that are 1 to 3 inches high. They grow in trays that stretch across an enormous room. LED lamps cast their eerie light on the plants. Most amazingly of all, these crops are thriving in a 97-year-old converted pork-processing facility in Chicago called The Plant.
This repurposed building is home to five vertical farms, a form of urban agriculture that emphasizes locally grown foods cultivated in pristine conditions and without chemical fertilizers. John Edel, founder and director of Bubbly Dynamics LLC, the company that owns The Plant, says, “We call this (The Plant) a vertical farm because we’re growing on multiple levels.”
In addition to the vertical farms, The Plant incubates 19 other food-related businesses, including three breweries, a bakery, a cheese distributor, a coffee roaster, and a chocolatier.
But that’s not the only advantage of operating indoors. Urban Eden, one of the farms at The Plant, grows crops using aeroponics, in which the roots of the plants dangle in the air, and mechanical devices puff them with mist. Aeroponics systems use 95% less irrigation than traditional agriculture does. And in laboratories housed at The Plant, food scientists are also researching potential uses of algae and cellular agriculture — growing meats and vegetables at the cellular level.
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