With spring in full swing, local fresh produce is available all over the city and Gotham Greens, a new comer to the urban agricultural movement, will have its first harvest this month which will help contribute to a healthier and more sustainable city. Founders Viraj Puri, formerly of environmental engineering firm NY Sun Works, and Eric Haley joined forces back in 2008 with a shared goal of providing local chefs and retailers with high quality, sustainable ingredients. Greenhouse expert Jenn Nelkin joined the team in 2009 to help make this goal a reality and would allow for the growing process to take place in the city, placing a strong an emphasis on local goods for local businesses.
2009 proved to a be successful year for the Gotham Greens, after beating out 70 applicants, the trio won New York’s Green Business Competition, which, in addition to a grant from the New York State Energy Research Development Authority, provided enough money to help the team build their first greenhouse facility atop a warehouse in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
The greenhouse in an impressive hydroponics growing facility that yields 20-30 times more produce per acre than conventional field production and uses 20 times less water in the growing process. Hydroponics allow for water to be recycled and go directly to plants meaning no water is lost to soil. Since agriculture is the largest consumer of fresh water and contributes heavily to stormwater runoff, which pollutes local waterways, Gotham Greens’ growing process is truly helping to move NYC towards a more sustainable city.
The greenhouse functions year round but was designed specifically to reduced the amount of energy used during the cold winter months. Part of the greenhouse’s energy needs are met by a 56 kW PV system that produces 70,000 kWh of electricity annually. A sophisticated computer control systems allows for optimum control on the facility’s climate to ensure that no energy is wasted during the growing process. The greenhouse essentially acts as an alternative green roof that contributes to the reduction of the heat island effect, a major phenomenon that New Yorkers are well aware of.
The team is dedicated to the health of its plants and the consumers who enjoy the products, and they have developed their food safety plan according to Good Agricultural Practices to ensure product safety. This also drastically minimizes chances for contamination from food-borne diseases such as e-coli and salmonella. Keeping the growing process local also helps reduce the chance for contamination. Local production means less middle men coming in contact with the produce and faster delivery to markets means higher quality goods with extended shelf life.
Additionally, Gotham Greens’ products are free of chemical pesticides, insecticides and herbicides, and their packaging is high quality, food-grade, tree-free, GMO-free compostable containers made from renewable plant fibers, which further emphasizes Gotham Greens’ dedication to sustainability. The greenhouse’s staff hails largely from nearby communities so there is commitment from everyone involved to do what’s best for the city and the local economy since they are experiencing the benefits first hand.
If you want to enjoy some of Gotham Greens’ swiss chard, bok choy, butterhead lettuce or any of their other extremely fresh and delicious produce you just have to go to one of New York City’s Whole Foods Markets – and chefs and restaurants are encouraged to get in contact with Gotham Greens directly through their website.
Images © Gotham Greens