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Zero Food Miles: BrightFarms Plans Rooftop Greenhouses On Supermarkets


If you want to buy food that’s traveled the least amount of miles to get to the produce stand, your best bet is probably a local Farmers’ market. Your worst bet? Probably the grocery store. Grocery stores often have food traveling hundreds or even thousands of miles to stock their stands, often creating astronomical carbon footprints. What’s a girl to do if she just wants a head of lettuce that didn’t travel 3 states to get on her cutting board?

New York-based BrightFarms has an idea. They build rooftop greenhouses, a simple way to take advantage of roof space while cutting “food miles” down to zero by growing produce in the same location it’s purchased: the supermarket.

Tomato house

They are trying to convince major supermarket chains to sign them up to cover their roofs with tomatoes, greens, and other produce. BrightFarms handles the labor and farming expenses such as greenhouse design, construction, planting and harvesting. The supermarkets will sign a 10-year contract agreeing to purchase whatever is grown on the roof, which could produce as much as 500,000 pounds of produce a year.

According to CEO Paul Lightfoot, “We grow for taste, not for shelf-life, and we pick when the vegetables are ripe.” This allows them to pick vegetables that can be sold over the next several days, rather than picking vegetables that have to endure a cross-country road trip in the back of a truck. As far as water consumption goes, they will use 1/10 the water and 1/20 the space of commercial agriculture.

It is hoped that the first three BrightFarms greenhouses will be up and running by summer 2012.

I would love to have a greenhouse on my roof. What would you like to see grown on the roof of your local grocery store?

Image: BrightFarms.com

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