The idea of bringing a farm to the inner city seems to be an inherent contradiction. Nonetheless, the idea of roof farming is springing up in places like the boros of New York City.
Brooklyn Grange is a roof farm located on the rooftop of a building on Northern Boulevard in Long Island City, Queens. The chief farmer is a man named Ben Flanner. He grows produce on a green roof system that used to be a flat roof that reached nearly 160 degrees at the height of the summer.
Now, the roof is much cooler and money is saved in cooling the building. This is in addition to the value of the produce grown on top of the roof. There is also extensive roof farming in Brooklyn, New York. A brand new affordable housing complex is planned for the South Bronx. The complex will host a huge rooftop farm. The greenhouse will reuse heat from the residential portion of the building and harvest rain water from the greenhouse roof.
Roof farming has big advantages. First, food can reach its market quicker with less transportation costs and spoilage. Second, local people can be employed to grow the food. The normal supply chain and marketing channels are bypassed so that food is homegrown and sold directly to consumers locally.
In essence, this idea is the ultimate in farm decentralization, as opposed to the concept of a complex food conglomerate. Additionally, there is a huge demand for locally produced food. Typically, celery, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers are grown in the environment of a roof farm.
Neighborhood residents are the most likely consumers in close proximity to roof farms. There are other parties who need local produce. For instance, local restaurants, food franchises, supermarkets, schools, hospitals, nursing homes,
child care centers and grocery stores are just a few of the constituencies who could benefit from immediately available fresh neighborhood produce.
The thermodynamics of converting wasted heat energy to reusable energy is available quite easily. Roof farms simply locate near a bakery, cleaners, pizza store, large building or local brewery since these establishments tend to generate a lot of wasted heat from their continuous operations.
For example, a bakery or pizza shop ventilation system transfers heat to a thermal fluid. The system uses this heat as an energy input to heat or to store water for use in bathrooms, dishwashing, or heating residential or commercial spaces.
Like the Victory Gardens under President Truman, these rooftop greenhouses will increase the supply of food for the poor, as well as middle class families. The result will be better health outcomes from eating fresh food, as well as a reduction in prices due to the increased supply. In addition, rooftop farms can contribute toward gainfully employing local people living in the inner cities.