Given that close to half of the world’s population now lives in cities with a swelling of up to 5 billion anticipated by the year 2030, one might ask whether we can afford to overlook the viability of urban farming and food production enterprises as a means to green our city communities long term. Granted there are community gardens, green roof projects, CSA’s, and green markets to support and consider, but how long can we continue to overlook the possibilities of colonizing urban zones that might resourcefully allow us to grow locally produced food without hefty transportation costs and waste? The New York Sun Works Center for Sustainable Engineering is already tackling this issue head on with their urban agriculture project, the Science Barge, a floating island of green in and around NYC’s waterfront parks and waterways.
The Science Barge is a sustainable urban farm designed by New York Sun Works, a Manhattan-based environmental nonprofit organization. Situated atop a floating ‘barge’ greenhouse powered by solar, wind and biofuels, and irrigated by rainwater and purified river water, the farm grows food in the city with no carbon emissions, no net water consumption, and no waste stream. The vegetables grown on the Science Barge require seven times less land and four times less water than traditional field crops. The center also uses a method called ‘recirculating greenhouse hydroponics’ to grow tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, and peppers. No soil or pumped in water is utilized in this cultivation process.
Research on the Science Barge allows for an ongoing investigation of the building and testing of ecologically responsible systems for the production of energy, clean water, and food, and the vital study of human impacts on the local environment. New York Sun Works founder and current Executive Director, Ted Caplow, was trained as an environmental engineer at Columbia University, where he earned his Ph.D. investigating water contaminant dynamics in the Hudson River Estuary. Dr. Caplow also holds an M.S. from Princeton, where he researched solar energy and global sustainability, and a B.A. from Harvard, where his focus was on sociology and international development. Together with his dedicated team, he hopes to create ways for cities to independently produce and manage a significant portion of their own food, energy, and water. With climate change forever on the horizon, food security and distribution may increasingly be compromised in certain parts of the world. The latest waves of innovative urban agriculture may serve to protect people while also protecting the environment.