What’s a vegan-certified farm? It’s a step beyond organic, using no pesticides, herbicides, GMOs, animal manure or fertilizers like bone meal (a blend of slaughterhouse by-products that helps enrich soil with phosphorous). The standards are so rigorous that there’s just one of them in the whole country: Philadelphia hydroponic produce growers Metropolis Farms, which operates on the second floor of a building on South Water Street.
Why the second floor when literal tons of water are involved in the growing process? To prove it can be done anywhere. Since the atmosphere is controlled, fundamental aspects of agriculture, like weather, seasons and crop rotation, are no longer in play, and “arable land” exists wherever the heck you say it is. Metropolis’s hydroponic works consume 98 percent less water and 82 percent less energy than traditional growing methods and produce zero runoff waste, in addition to growing food faster since resources are used at maximum efficiency. The company’s produce is only sold locally, which means no additional energy is required to ship it to markets and harvest and delivery can happen on the same day for peak freshness. Taking particular advantage of “precision farming,” the ability to time a harvest, Metropolis is able to offer crops like berries and herbs, previously confined to warm seasons, year-round.
“We want to show that the [urban vertical] tech was adaptable,” the farm’s president, Jack Griffin, tells NewsWorks. “How much available space, like nooks, second-floor space, gets wasted, or never offers a job? Growing a significant amount of food in an economically viable model means we can bring artesian farmers back — and that anybody can do this.”
A second location is currently in the planning phases.