Solving Cities

An old Chicago slaughterhouse turned vertical farm

An old Chicago slaughterhouse turned vertical farm

Posting in Energy

An old Chicago meat-packing plant could become the symbol of the new urban food system.

In a neighborhood with close ties to the American industrial food system, an old Chicago meat-packing plant could become the symbol of the new urban food system.

The Plant is a three-story aquaponic farm in Chicago's Back of the Yards Park, a neighborhood that inspired Upton Sinclair's critical look at the meat-packing industry (among other things) in The Jungle. But this story's far from dystopian, as an exciting new project is transforming a former meat-packing plant into a producer of fresh produce and new businesses.

Growing food will only be one part of the 93,000 square foot building. The vertical farm will only take up about one-third of the building space. The rest will be an incubator for sustainable food businesses, offering low rent, low energy costs, and a shared kitchen, to startups. There will also be a brewery, called New Chicago Brewery, a company that makes kombucha tea, an artisanal bakery, a mushroom farm, and two aquaponics companies -- Skyygreens Aquaponics (which will run the vertical farm) and 312 Aquaponics (which will develop aquaponics technologies). All of these projects will help make The Plant a net-zero operation. Jim Parks does a nice job of explaining how it all works in the video below:

The venture has been years in the making, renovating the building, gathering permits and licenses for the various operations, but The Plant is becoming more and more operational and expects to be completely up-and-running by 2015.

The Plant will operate under a social enterprise model, meaning there are some aspects that are for-profit and some that are non-profit. But both sides have goals social and environmental responsibility.

Are projects like The Plant the new "industrial"? I hope so.

Photo: Plant Chicago/Flickr

[h/t AP]

Share this

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure