The city of London has a lot of empty rooftops, especially in the downtown core. Lots of flat rooftops that just sit there, all day, all night, absorbing heat/cold and getting brown. See the picture to the right from my friend Dawn Lyons as an example – it was taken from One London Place this past June.
So much real estate. So much wasted real estate. What could it all be used for?
- Solar panels, generating additional income for the owners of those buildings
- Green roofs, saving money on cooling and heating those buildings
- Growing food
Wait, what?! Yes, growing food! There’s a new company, called Brightfarms, in New York City that’s doing exactly that – building greenhouses on building rooftops, planting the food, and then harvesting it. They’ve also got the grocery stores they’re selling to signed to 10 year contracts to buy whatever Brightfarms grows, ensuring a steady stream of revenue similar to the way the Province of Ontario has spurred the renewable energy market with the FIT and microFIT programs.
I see this as a way to get locally grown food for the other 5 or 6 months of the year that we really can’t grow much in Ontario. I love stopping at local farmers in Middlesex County and buying corn, cucumbers, asparagus, etc. during the summer months. But what do I do in February? Buy the stuff that’s imported from Chile or California at the Superstore, just like most other people.
That sucks, doesn’t it?
I’d really like to see a local startup, or even an established farmer with some capital, take this on. There’s clearly lots of real estate available, and Brightfarms seems to think they can grow up to 227,000 kg (500,000 lbs) a year on a single rooftop using 90% less water, and 95% less space than traditional agriculture thanks to hydroponic growing methods.
So, who’s the got money? The desire? I don’t have the money, but I certainly have the desire to see this happen in London, Toronto, Montreal, Windsor, Vancouver… wherever! The space is there – we just need to use it in better, smarter ways.