How Rooftop Farming Is Making Farm-To-Table An Option In Cities, Too

by Tracy Memoli

In their plans to go green, hundreds of thousands of plants will be placed on top of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, forming the largest green roof on a US sports arena.

France recently passed a law that requires rooftops of new buildings in commercial zones to be partially covered in either plants or solar panels.

"Roof to table" is a new concept in dining that may very well change the way we dine out.

And, thanks to a couple of innovative restaurants in Manhattan, vertical rooftop farming is quickly catching on.

These early adopters of vertical rooftop farming are utilizing aeroponic towers to produce uber fresh fruits and vegetables.

The towers make fruits and vegetables two to three times faster than conventional farming and use 95 percent less water.

This makes it the perfect solution for drought-affected areas, like California, a state that provides 90 percent of the leaf lettuce — among other produce — we consume.

In this advanced aeroponic system, the nutrient-rich water replaces dirt, allowing fruits and vegetables to grow faster, without any pesticides, which also cuts down on the time spent washing them once they're harvested.

Chefs can now literally pick the veggies off the tower and serve them after a quick rinse. This process significantly reduces the carbon footprint in many ways.

Water consumption is lessened, harmful pesticides are eliminated and the cost and need for shipping is completely removed from the equation.

Vertical aeroponic farming could be considered part of the action plan to combat global warming.

Imagine ordering your favorite, mouthwatering dish at your neighborhood restaurant, where you can see the fresh organic fruits and vegetables being grown just steps away from your table.

RL King, chef for The Heath and Gallow Green at The McKittrick Hotel (which has 20 towers in New York City), expects to produce approximately 70 to 80 pounds of tomatoes a week, and 10 to 15 pounds of basil this year.

Last year, his restaurant’s rooftop farm produced four thousand heads of lettuce, 3,000 squash blossoms, tons of cucumbers, squash, kale and arugula.

“If as little as 30 percent of New York City rooftops went green, think about the impact that would make,” King said. “We would be making a huge difference, and not just in producing vegetables. We would be helping to clean the air and reducing energy costs.”

Restaurateur and chef John Mooney has pioneered the use of vertical aeroponic towers since 2009 in his eclectic bistro in the West Village, Bell Book & Candle, which has 65 towers on its rooftop in New York City.

The restaurant’s menu changes seasonally and is heavily influenced by production from the rooftop tower garden.

Mooney has even expanded his “responsibly sourced” green garden sights to DC, where he recently opened Bidwell in Union Market, which has 75 towers.

Each tower holds anywhere from 16 to 35 plants.

This urban food wave of the future reduces the carbon footprint, significantly helping to save the environment for this generation and the next.

Having a green roof not only helps conserve energy, but the vegetable towers also provide shade and help produce oxygen.

Restaurants aren’t the only ones going green to a higher level.

O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, as part of its sustainability program, has implemented a first-of-it’s-kind urban garden with 26 aeroponic towers.

It supplies some of the eateries within the airport with the freshest fruits and vegetables around.

Across the US, nurseries, grocery stores and even non-profit organizations have also embraced aeroponic farming.

If the future of restaurants lies on the rooftops, Millennials and the rest of the country will certainly be jumping to feast from this organic garden in the clouds.