Today’s Solutions: August 10, 2022

In the food desert of Chicago’s South Side, a half hour drive is often necessary if you want to avoid shopping at a fast food restaurant or gas station. Yet change is around the corner. Between the sprawl and the empty lots, a little food utopia is unfolding. An old meat-packing building from the 1920s has been remodeled to serve as a year-’round urban farm. Inside, fish and produce like tilapia and mushrooms are being raised, while a shared kitchen will help sustainable food businesses develop. An inside market offers fresh produce as well as community, and all of it is meant to contribute to a local economy around healthy food.
The Plant is a 93,500-square-foot “­vertical farm.” Vertical farming means that farming happens on multiple stories of a building and from floor to ceiling on each story. John Edel founded The Plant; he had been ­dreaming of a project that was both industrial and ­sustainable for years. After purchasing the building in 2010, he started renovating with a group of volunteers.
The Plant produces as much energy as it consumes by using an anaerobic ­digester—which turns waste into energy—and a ­combined heat and power system. The farm also experiments with ­hydroponics (growing plants in water without soil) and aquaponics (raising fish in tanks—combined with hydroponics). Eventually, The Plant will operate completely off the grid, plant manager Shelby Phillips explains. “The idea is to get people thinking about how we can do things with less waste and how to do things locally.”
Ultimately, The Plant is about changing the way we engage with food—the way it is produced, where it is sold, how it reaches consumers, what happens with the waste, where the energy comes from, how far it travels before being consumed. “The most exciting part is that what we do is ­replicable,” explains Phillips.
The farm is a proof of concept and will serve as a tool for education; classes on sustainability, aquaponics technology and more will be offered. The Plant will never produce on a scale that will allow it to be profitable, but the farm is operational and tenants like Arize Kombucha, which sells the fermented tea, and Greens & Gills, the first ­aquaponics farm in Chicago, are moving into the shared kitchen. In two years, the South Side will have a fully operational oasis in its midst.
Find out more at plantchicago.com
Photo: PLANT CHICAGO, NFP/ RACHEL SWENIE
Want more stories about alternative food production? Find them in this free issue.

Print this article
More of Today's Solutions

Burger King Austria makes plant-based their “new normal”

Burger King Austria’s new campaign is boldly challenging the public’s expectation of what “normal” ought to be. In a climate-conscious world, making plant-based the default standard for burgers is quite a statement. The brand's experiment ... Read More

Irish beekeeper constructs colorful LEGO hive in his backyard

From cleaning out the basement to taking up bread making, people around the world have taken up new hobbies to fill their quarantined time. One creative bee-lover in Ireland decided to use the time to ... Read More

Instagram adds a field for your gender identity pronoun preferences

Instagram announced an exciting change to their platform in 2021—the introduction of a new field where users can specify their preferred gender identity pronouns on their profile. You can add up to four gender identity ... Read More

Your future rooftop could be made out of easy-to-install solar shingles

The roofs of the future may be made entirely out of solar panels. At least that’s the goal of GAF Energy, which has recently launched a new solar roof that it believes can revolutionize the ... Read More