Innovative aeroponic rooftop cultivation in New Orleans
By Treena Hein
A vertical aeroponic ‘Tower Garden’ that just opened on the open rooftop of Rouses Market grocery store in downtown New Orleans uses 90 per cent less water and nutrients than traditional field growing systems.
With aeroponic systems, plant roots are suspended in air and intermittently soaked with a nutrient-rich, mineral based solution. The solution then drips down into a reservoir where it is then recirculated.
Rouses Market used the services of Aquaponic Modular Production Systems (AMPS) of New Orleans, which offers consulting services to design and build aeroponic, aquaponic (involving aquaculture) and hydroponic systems. (VertiFarms is an AMPS subsidiary).
Rouses Markets is one of the ten largest independent grocers in the US. The Louisiana-based company has 38 locations in two states, and employs over 5,400 people.
The ‘Tower Garden’ was developed by a former Disney greenhouse manager, and is used at Disney, the Chicago O’Hare Airport Eco-Farm and on the Manhattan rooftop of Bell Book & Candle restaurant.
Rouses Markets is the first grocer in the country to develop its own aeroponic urban farm on its own rooftop, says managing partner Donny Rouse. “The flat rooftop on this store is perfect for urban farming,” says Rouse. “And the view of downtown is postcard-perfect. I imagine we will do a lot of dinners up here.” Rouses Markets downtown store sits just blocks from the Superdome, French Quarter, and Mississippi River.
Rouses Culinary Director, Chef Louis ‘Jack’ Treuting, saw the idea as a way to provide fresh herbs for the food Rouses chefs, but quickly saw potential to expand the program to include retail: “I knew if our chefs wanted it, so would our customers,” he says. “Aeroponics makes sense for the [roof] space. It is lighter than soil-based operations.” They’ve named it their garden ‘Roots on the Rooftop’ and officially launched it on May 31st.
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