New York City's largest rooftop farm grows in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Grange's newest rooftop farm in Sunset Park spans 55,000 sq ft of cultivated space.

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Brooklyn Grange's newest rooftop farm in Sunset Park spans 55,000 sq ft of cultivated space.

New York City's largest rooftop farm is sandwiched between views of the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building in Brooklyn's Sunset Park. Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm is Brooklyn Grange's third rooftop farm on top of an eight-storey building and spans 55,000 sq ft of cultivated space out of a 140,000 sq ft rooftop.

Brooklyn Grange debuted its first rooftop farm in Long Island City in 2010 and the second at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 2012.

"The purpose of the farm is to grow as much food as we can, it's to manage millions of gallons of stormwater to create an example of what we can do with our ecosystem, to continue to make our cities as liveable as possible going into the future," said Mr Ben Flanner, the company's co-founder and CEO.

The farm grows numerous vegetables, among them tomatoes, leafy greens, peppers and eggplants, and sells the produce at farmers' markets and to restaurants. It also has a pick-up system where customers visit the farm and receive a weekly bag or box. The farm does not use synthetic fertilisers or pesticides. Instead, it uses only organic materials. The soil is a special mixture of compost and lightweight stone, making it more conducive for use at rooftop farms.

"We have thousands of rooftops and there are many different points of value in doing this; there's interactions with the community, there's all the food we grow and the stormwater management," said Mr Flanner.

He explained that rooftop farms can relieve overtaxed city sewer systems by catching and using rainwater to grow crops.

 

"A huge point of surface area across our city is the impermeable roof surfaces. So when the water hits that, it goes down, straight into the system. So we can slow it down and absorb millions and millions of gallons on spaces like this."

City officials have said this could save billions of dollars over 20 years using this and other kinds of green technology instead of relying on so-called grey infrastructure, such as storage tanks and tunnels.

During heavy storms, the city's wastewater treatment plants turn into major polluters. That is because much of the city's water system was built more than 150 years ago when it was common practice to let rainwater drain into the sewage system.

To prevent treatment plants from flooding, bypasses kick in when there are major rainfalls, spewing sewage into harbours, canals and rivers.

Mr Flanner's hope is that more people in large cities around the world dealing with stormwater and food issues can look to his model for inspiration.