As new vertical farms continue to open across the nation, a South Philly warehouse is churning out fresh, local produce 365 days a year and cutting the distance food needs to travel to get to local restaurants, grocery stores and plates.
Metropolis Farms is not only the first indoor hydroponic vertical farm in Philadelphia, it’s the first vegan-certified farm in the nation and the only known vertical farm to operate on the second floor of a building.
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“The landlord had faith in us to let us put thousands of pounds of water over his head and prove that it wouldn’t leak,” Metropolis Farms president Jack Griffin told NewsWorks. “That makes it possible for others to try it. Proving it by showing it is a different thing from just talking about it.”
A vegan farm means no pesticides, herbicides, animal manure and animal bi-products. The company boasts that they were certified under the rigorous standards of the American Vegetarian Association.
“According to the CDC, green leafy vegetables grown in manure is one of the top sources of food poisoning,” Griffin told Philly.com. To prevent pests, the farm places carnivorous plants between the towers to lure and kill bugs.
Using artificial lighting, climate control and other patented farming techniques, stacks of plants flourish in tall towers inside the South Water Street building (that’s located “just minutes from the south Philly Italian market made famous in the Rocky movies,” as the venture points out on their website). The farm also reduces its energy output through the use of robotics and hopes to transition to solar energy soon.
Metropolis Farms grows herbs, greens, tomatoes and more crops year round in a very small space—about 120,000 plants in only 36 square feet—and with a lot less water by using hydroponics. The farm claims to use 98 percent less water since it just recirculates and 82 percent less energy compared to conventional and organic farms.
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“The innovation here is density, as well as energy and water conservation,” Griffin told Technically Philly. “We can grow more food in less space using less energy and water. The result is that I can replace 44,000 square feet with 36 square feet. When you hear those numbers, it kind of makes sense.”