Imagining Vertical Farming in Philadelphia

Posted on January 31, 2013


Have you heard of The Plant? It’s a vertical farming project in a former slaughterhouse in Chicago. This year will be the third growing season for The Plant, and by this summer an anaerobic digester will move the project to being self-sufficient in terms of energy, generated from the waste products from raising fish. The project will also include restaurants in the 90,000 square foot building to process some of the crops raised and there are plans for a community kitchen.

Philadelphia, like Chicago, is a sprawling industrial metropolis ravaged by globalization, which has left a wasteland of empty manufacturing sites. John Edel, found of The Plant, grew up among Chicago’s derelict factories. When he envisioned filling them, he looked to farming as a way to to re-energize abandoned urban space. (In this video, he talks about some of his goals).

How do we take a vision like this and make it a reality in Philadelphia? Who can rally the resources to buy an empty building, design the garden racks and fish tanks, and populate the space with restaurants and related businesses? Who has the engineering expertise at Drexel University, Penn, and Temple to design such a project so that it pays for itself?

Benjamin Franklin envisioned “a benign balance between city and country” in Philadelphia “with each supplying the economic and social needs of the other.” Can we carry forward such a balance by imagining vertical farming in Philadelphia?