It may not look like much on the outside, but over the next few years a former food factory in Chicago is going to be turned into a lean, mean, food growing machine. Located in an industrial area in southeast Chicago, The Plant was once the home of Peer Foods - but it's set to become the city's first vertical farm. The transformation is already underway and over the next few years, the factory will become a zero-energy, food business incubator, research facility, education space, and working urban farm. Plant Chicago is already growing greens and mushrooms and will soon start brewing beer and kombucha and raising tilapia in a sustainable system with zero waste.
The Plant is a large vertical farm in southeast Chicago that houses Plant Chicago and a few other food producing tenants. The city’s first vertical farm was started in 2010 and is expected to be fully operational by 2016. The factory has a long history of food production and was last owned by Peer Foods until abandoned – and then Plant Chicago bought the facility and began to restore it. The Plant is already pumping out greens, mushrooms, bread and kombucha. Eventually, the integrated, sustainable, zero-waste facility will combine a tilapia farm, beer brewery, kombucha brewery, a communal kitchen, aquaponics and energy production.
The zero-energy facility relies on an on-site CHP system fueled by methane produced in-house by an anaerobic digester. The CHP system will provide energy, heating and cooling, and steam for use throughout the facility. Check out this great video by Today’s Green Minute for an easy-to-understand overview of how all of the elements of the farm are intertwined. As part of the renovation, the team, which was aided in part by Chicago-based SHED Studio, has gutted the interior, cleaned it up, installed the CHP system, a shipping container garden shed, aquaponics grow rooms, and new energy-efficient windows. There’s still a lot of work to be done though, so if you’re in the area you might consider volunteering! The Plant is also open for tours weekly for both children and adults.
Images ©The Plant