Time to get all “Breaking Bad” with vegetables- feel like a bad a**, without the threat of jail time or murder, right in your own home! Yes, even you, Mr. Condo-owner, living in a big city, can secretly grow your own stash of affordable organic vegetables!
The need and wish for sustainable agriculture in cities is increasing due to the environmental and monetary benefits of having local food sources. The benefits of growing vegetables in cities include air quality enhancement, positive psychological benefits, fresher food, low transportation costs!
A group in London recognized these benefits and began growing up right in the middle of the busy city! Rooftop vertical gardens put the city in a sustainable mind set with cool looking gardens. The “GrowUp” team constructed their aquaponics GrowUp Box from a reused shipping container that was modified to include a rooftop greenhouse. What are aquaponics, you ask? Well stated in the article, this means “The greenhouse will produce vegetables that will get all the necessary nutrients from waste water from fish tanks situated bellow. The nutrients are meant to fertilize the plants and in turn the plants purify the water.” With a footprint of only 14 square meters, the GrowUp Box can produce around 60kg of fish and 200kg of salad each year!
A US based research group out of MIT uses aeroponics, a technique developed by NASA in the 90s to grow vegetables on space crafts, which uses 70-90% less water, and allows plants to grow significantly faster. This process leaves the roots of crops hang in the air below the plants, and in the case of this MIT lab, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, and peppers are grown on the 5th floor of a University building. The roots are misted every five minutes with water containing controlled concentrations of nutrients, such as phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium, as well as micro-nutrients, copper and magnesium. A seed is placed in a thermoset plastic cube and is allowed to germinate in dark closet space, mimicking underground conditions, then the seedling is moved to the 5th floor space where natural light and LED lights supply the plant with the energy it needs to grow. Apparently this process claims to double the nutrient content of conventional practices because the fruits and vegetables do not need to be picked before they are ripe, therefore, less spoilage and waste in addition to nutritional benefits. This process also avoids devastation by weather and pests by growing indoors. Sounds to me like Epcot at Disney World has had the right idea since the 90s!
Meanwhile another London based company began a hydroponics project called “Growing Underground”, and has taken over an underground, abandoned World War II bomb shelter, big enough to fit 8,000 people! They use LED lights and a hydroponic technique, where a bench full of seeds is flooded periodically, to grow a 2.5 hectare farm! Proponents boast about constant temperatures, constant light, predictable and constant weather, and no pests. They grow pea shoots, rocket (whatever that is), red lion mustard, radish, tatsoi, pak choi, and broccoli.
It’s amazing what we can do when we think outside the box! I live in a condo, and have always wanted a garden. I have a porch to I may try the vertical garden first…I’ll let you know how that goes!