Touring The Plant, Chicago's Sustainable Vertical Farm

Since 2010, an old meat packing factory on the South Side of Chicago has been slowly transitioning into a massive urban farm.  The building, abandoned by Peer Foods in 2007, serves as an incubator for food startups and agricultural specialists growing and producing food.  I toured the 93,000 square foot facility, appropriately named The Plant, this weekend.  The Plant is currently home to a kombucha brewery, a bakery, an aquaponics farm, a mushroom farm, a craft beer brewery, and more.

From the website:  The Plant is founded on the concept of closing waste, resource and energy loops. All of the systems of production at The Plant function and are interconnected based on this model. The Plant is a project of Bubbly Dynamics, LLC. Founded on a model of closing waste, resource, and energy loops, The Plant is working to show what truly sustainable food production and economic development looks like by growing and producing food inside an repurposed industrial building. www.plantchicago.com

With help from a $1.5 million dollar grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, The Plant installed an anaerobic digester combined with a heat and power system in order to be able to run completely off the grid.

SkyGreens Aquaponics and Greens & Gills both have operations at The Plant.  Aquaponics is the combination of Aquaculture and Hydroponics, where waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic animals supplies nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, which in turn purify the water.

Whiner Brewery is currently in the process of setting up shop at The Plant.  I got a sneak peak of their production facility, which should be up and running soon.

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One of the coolest operations to see was the mushroom farm.  Located in the basement of The Plant, a large room stretches alone the hallway, containing several small submarine-like circular windows.  The Plant's mission, in addition to sustainable agriculture, is to share knowledge and teach others how they can start their own growing operation.  The mushroom farm is one of the demonstration farms on sight.

Getting to The Plant is easy.  Coming from the North or South, just take the Ashland bus to 46th Street.  Tours run Saturdays at 11:30am and 2:00pm during the summer and cost $10 for adults and $7 for students. Enjoy the farmers market outside, showcasing many products produced on-site, and local music.

 

To learn more about The Plant, check out this video!