The growing popularity of rooftop gardens is already evolving into more sophisticated options. Rouses Markets, the Thibodaux, La.-based independent, has set up an urban farming system on a store roof in New Orleans (shown below) that relies on aeroponics.
Aeroponics? This process uses air or mist as the primary growing medium, instead of water (hydroponics) or actual soil (geoponics).
What’s ideal about this type of system is that it makes a strong sustainability statement, since the particular fixtures that Rouses is using are shaped to recycle water and liquid nutrients through their own reservoirs, according to Rouses’ culinary director, Chef Louis "Jack" Treuting.
"Aeroponics makes sense for the space," he notes. "It is lighter than soil-based operations.”
Rouses’ operation, aptly named “Roots on the Rooftop,” was orignally designed to provide Treuting and his prepared foods team with fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley and basil. As the idea developed, the retailer made the strategic decision to make the herbs available for retail sale as well. This way, the concept of the garden, and its message could be sent directly to shoppers.
"This is very cutting edge for urban farming," says managing partner Donny Rouse. What’s more, the chain was able to hire a local firm — Aquaponic Modular Production Systems (A.M.P.S.) — to create and install the farm.
Speaking of local, the timing for the farm’s opening couldn’t be better. Roots on the Rooftop will officially launch on May 31st, one day before the city of New Orleans kicks off its second annual Eat Local Challenge. Rouse notes that while the event challenges participants to eat food grown within a 200-mile radius of the city, "In our case, we're growing herbs less than 100 feet from our store."