I was recently reading that Chicago has quickly become one of the top US cities for urban farming/urban agriculture. There is of course the Chicagoland shining star, “FarmedHere”, a fully organic indoor vertical farm in Bedford Park, Illinois. They have accomplished a great task of reducing the time, cost, and ecological footprint of delivering fresh produce to consumers throughout the Chicago Metro area by growing their microgreens and herbs hydroponically. By implementing strategic distribution methods, they have been able to get their fresh produce in over 100 markets and groceries in Illinois.
One of the more recent initiatives that has been picking up steam are “closed loop” food incubators. Chicago has a great case study in the cheekily named “The Plant”. Bubbly Dynamics purchased an old pork processing and packing plant that was slated for demolition back in 2010, and have spent the past six year transforming the facility into what they call a living laboratory for urban farming and food production.
When completed, The Plant will be transformed from an energy-intensive pork packing facility into a living laboratory that explores closing waste, energy, and material loops. Waste products and materials from one business will be utilized by another, significantly minimizing or eliminating what ends up in the landfill. Food waste that can’t easily be reused (along with over 10,000 tons per year of food waste from other nearby businesses) will be fed into an anaerobic digester. This machine will create a biogas that can be used to produce both heat and electricity for the building. The businesses located at The Plant will essentially be powering their operations via their own waste!
The Plant currently houses over a dozen small food businesses, including farming, baking and brewing. Plant Chicago partners closely with Bubbly Dynamics and tenants of The Plant to close waste loops in the building. Through technology research and holding up The Plant as an example, Plant Chicago and Bubbly Dynamics can show the world a future of closed loop, net-zero urban food production.
Aside from closed-loop food production, The Plant is also very active for the promotion and education of local agribusiness, aquaponics, hydroponics, and one of my favorites, mycology. They also host outdoor and indoor farmers markets that feature The Plant resident entrepreneurs, as well as other local and sustainable food businesses.
The Plant is a great example of urban revitalization, community engagement/agri-education, and the conversion of a previously dilapidated building into an anchor of a neighborhood.