Josh Marks

Food Waste Fuels Vertical Farming in Chicago

by , 04/10/14

The Plant, John Edel, food waste, vertical farming, anaerobic digester, Chicago, Back of the Yards

The Windy City is turning into a hotbed of sustainable urban agriculture. Entrepreneur John Edel is transforming The Plant, a 1920s era meatpacking facility in Chicago’s industrial Back of the Yards neighborhood (next to the Union Stockyards) into a net zero vertical farming operation fueled by food waste. And a huge part of that transformation involves a giant anaerobic digester that converts food waste into biogas to power and heat the four-story, 93,500 square foot red brick warehouse.



The conversion to a vertical farm and food business incubator was partly made possible thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) to support a comprehensive renewable energy system.

Related: Queens University Students Turn an Abandoned Mill Into a Flourishing Urban Farm

Once completed, the anaerobic digester will capture the methane from 27 tons of food waste daily and 11,000 annually. It will burn in a combined heat and power system to produce electricity and heat for a future on-site brewery and to control the building’s temperature. Some of the 11 food producers currently in the warehouse that will benefit from the food waste include a mushroom farm, an outdoor fruit and vegetable farm and an interior aquaponics fish farm.

“I think by the end of this year everything will be operational and we’ll be well beyond net zero,” says Edel.

+ The Plant 

Via NPR

Images via Plant Chicago

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