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Gowanus Whole Foods Unveils Massive Rooftop Greenhouse

By Gustavo Solis | April 30, 2014 3:09pm
 Gotham Greens installed a rooftop greenhouse on the new Gowanus Whole Foods.
Rooftop Greenhouse
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GOWANUS — Farm to table has never been so direct.

Organizers unveiled a 20,000 square foot rooftop greenhouse Wednesday on the roof of Whole Foods' massive Gowanus location, which urban farming group Gotham Greens expects will produce 200 tons of produce — or the equivalent yield of a 9-acre farm — per year.

The produce — basil, bok choy, tomatoes, and various kinds of leafy greens — will be sold at 10 Whole Foods Markets around the city, said Viraj Puri, co-founder of Gotham Greens.

The produce is grown in hydroponic containers, meaning no soil and no need for pesticides, and there is also an on-site bee colony to help the plants pollinate, organizers said.

In addition, the greenhouse has the added benefit of keeping the supermarket cool in the summer and warm in the winter, organizers said.

"It's like having a giant triple-glazed window," Puri said on Wednesday, as a crew of farmers harvested plants. The greenhouse employs a team of 25 full-time farmers, organizers said.

The rooftop greenhouse is just one of many green features at the grocery, which uses 60 percent less energy than the average supermarket, said Tristam Coffin, Whole Foods Market Green Mission Specialist.

Outside in the parking lot, solar panels and wind turbines create green energy for the 56,000-square-foot food shop. The bright red bricks throughout the store were brought in from a demolished building in Newark and wood inside the store came from the Coney Island Pier, Coffin said.

Inside, the store installed a state-of-the-art combined heat and power system that helps keep energy use close to net zero, Coffin added. 

By reducing its energy by 60 percent, Whole Foods is expected to save $125,000, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.