It’s always sunny in Philadelphia, according to the title of a popular television show. If so, it’s the perfect place for the world’s first solar powered indoor vertical farm.
Metropolis Farms has constructed a 500 kilowatt solar array made up of 2003 solar panels on the roof of a building in The City of Brotherly Love. On the fourth floor, it is constructing a vertical farm that will be powered entirely by electricity coming from the roof. It plans to grow the equivalent of 660 outdoor acres worth of crops in less than 100,000 sq feet. “The panels are already installed and turned on, now we’re building out the farm. The first crops will be planted in November,” the company says.
Before Metropolis Farms took over the space, the only things growing on the fourth floor were pigeons. But soon, crops of fresh tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce, herbs, and broccoli will flourish there for the benefit of the citizens of Philadelphia and environs. “We feel this inherently demonstrates the wonder of this new industry we’re helping create, the industry of indoor farming.”
The company goes on to say,
“To this point, the city of Philadelphia has only ~8 acres of urban farming, mainly because there’s no available land for growing crops traditionally. By bringing the growing process indoors, in line with our mission of social responsibility, we are revitalizing abandoned spaces and are using them for local food production. We are empowering a new generation of farmers to grow food for cities, in cities.
“This technology democratizes the ability to grow local food in any community, regardless of location or climate. We’re doing this because local food is just better. Local food is more nutritious than food that’s packed in a truck and travels for weeks, it tastes better, and growing food in the communities where it’s eaten helps stimulate the local economy.”
Detractors of indoor farming point out the high cost of powering all the lights and circulation pumps needed, but Metropolis Farms thinks its rooftop solar array will answer the critics.
“The truth is, like any technology, indoor farming is constantly improving upon itself. We have gained efficiencies through innovative lighting (not LEDs), BTU management systems, and other means to dramatically reduce the amount of energy our farms are using.
“And we are on the cusp of a breakthrough in a technology that will reduce our energy usage even further. We hope to demonstrate this new technological advancement at this year’s Indoor Ag-Con, hosted for the first time in Philadelphia. We are pushing the envelope by attempting to build a zero-carbon farm. Through water recapture techniques, renewable energy production, advanced energy systems, and most importantly by farming locally, we are on the right track.”
Another benefit of vertical gardening is a dramatic decrease in the amount of pesticides needed to grow fresh food. Not only will the crops not be covered in chemicals, neither will the environment surrounding the vertical garden. That’s a huge benefit that should not be discounted. “We hope others will follow our lead and start building farms of the future, so communities everywhere can benefit from having a quality local food source that grows crops responsibly,” say the leaders of Metropolis Farms.