World’s Largest Rooftop Farm Being Built in Chicago

CHICAGO — Planning is under way for the world’s largest rooftop farm that is being built in a south Chicago neighborhood.

San Francisco-based Method Products PBC, an eco-friendly cleaning products manufacturer, and New York-based Gotham Greens, a builder and operator of greenhouse facilities in urban areas, are partnering to build the rooftop farm at Method’s new manufacturing plant in Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood.

Designed by William McDonough + Partners of Charlottesville, Va., Method’s plant is anticipated to be the world’s first LEED-Platinum certified manufacturing plant in its industry. Gotham Greens, known as an environmental leader in New York City, will design, build and operate an agricultural greenhouse on top of the plant that is expected to produce up to 1 million pounds of sustainably grown, pesticide-free produce. The produce will be distributed through local Chicago retailers, restaurants, farmer’s markets and community groups.

“Chicago has shown remarkable leadership in urban farming and green building over the past decade,” said Viraj Puri, co-founder and CEO of Gotham Greens, in a statement. “We’re thrilled to be contributing to the trailblazing work being done in these sectors and furthering Chicago’s position as one of the greenest and most innovative cities in America. We’re particularly honored to be partnering with Method and the Pullman Park development and community. We are dedicated to providing our customers and local residents with the freshest and best tasting, hyper-local produce available, 365 days of the year.”

Gotham Greens has a quirky motto: “We see green fields where others see rooftops.” But the urban agriculture approach has earned the company an Environmental Excellence Award from the New York State Department, as well as the grand prize in the 2009 New York Green Business Competition.

“Gotham Greens shares our goal of using business as a force for social and environmental good,” said Drew Fraser, CEO of Method, in a statement. “We are thrilled to partner with a like-minded organization, who has demonstrated that the innovative, adaptive use of urban space can make a significant impact on local communities.”

Gotham Greens’ irrigation methods use 20 times less land and 10 times less water and eliminate the need for pesticide use and fertilizer runoff, one of the leading causes of global water pollution. The company promises that its sterile greenhouses and food safety program minimize the risk of foodborne pathogens. By growing locally in Pullman, Gotham Greens will eliminate the carbon footprint linked to shipping produce across the country, according to a press releasestatement by the company. Often, the Gotham Greens produce Chicago residents will find in stores or at their local farmer’s markets will have been harvested and packaged the same day.

Sprawled across 22 acres, Method’s manufacturing campus features a refurbished wind turbine, solar panel installations, natural light throughout the factory and native land renewal. Five acres of the site will house buildings while the remaining acreage will remain as greenery that Method maintains. A sidewalk will be built around the facility, instead of a fence, and only native trees and perennials will be planted throughout the area using non-irrigated, sustainable landscaping. The tree selection for planting is based off the natural pre-settlement oak- hickory savannah that once inhabited the Pullman area.

The facility is scheduled to be operational in the spring of 2015.