A local firm is partnering with two organizations to help grow organic food indoors and increase local food supplies.
Green Living Technologies International LLC is creating two indoor urban farms. One will be at FoodLink Inc. in Rochester; the other is at Cornell University's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, Ontario County.
The indoor farms are using Green Living's vertical stainless steel panel design layouts and organic food production process for growing food indoors. The technology has the potential to produce more than 2,000 pounds of tomatoes a year in 768 square feet of growing space-an area 16 by 48 feet, the company said.
The pilot systems will give Green Living the documentation for food production capabilities using the system and also demonstrate the economic viability of these indoor food factories, company leaders said.
Green Living CEO George Irwin said the goals go beyond food production.
"By implementing a sustainable community program centered on indoor food production, we combine mentoring, empowerment and education, as we create career opportunities by utilizing indoor food farming to help transform neighborhoods in the process," Irwin said in a statement.
Thomas Ferraro, FoodLink's founder and executive director, said Green Living's pilot indoor farm complements his agency's vision of creating a hunger-free community.
Foodlink's goal is to develop a sustainable regional food system that gives everyone access to nutritious food, as well as the skills to lead a healthy life. Indoor food factories in urban environments, like what Green Living is proposing, can help the agency realize that vision, he said.
Workers at the Ag Station in Geneva agree that there is a potential for producing food using Green Living's technology. The station has the wall set up to produce tomatoes, squash and other foods.
Green Living Technologies has been manufacturing, designing and installing vegetative green roofs and walls since 1999. Since 2006, the focus has shifted to product development, manufacturing and education.
The company is based at Schoen Place in Pittsford, where there are six employees, but the firm has roughly 1,000 representatives and installers worldwide.
The company's products range from single mobile units for classroom use to A-frames that allow for commercial-scale production. Green Living partners with manufacturing facilities in Detroit, Santiago, Chile, and the United Arab Emirates.
Its patented green walls and roofs have been installed in several countries, including the largest outdoor green wall in North America, in Vancouver, British Columbia, and the green living wall on the Intercontinental Hotel in Santiago, Chile. Its green roof panels also make up the third-largest green roof in Canada, atop Sysco Corp. near Vancouver.
Formerly a landscape contractor in New Jersey, Irwin sold his business to finish his teaching degree in Upstate New York. It was in the interim that he started a contracting company building ponds. In 1999, a client inquired about a rooftop garden. At that time, very little information was available in the United States on what are known today as green roofs.
Working with companies in Europe, Irwin helped in the development of a system known as the green living roof panel.
Growing food was a logical next step in his enterprise, he said, noting that it all started when his children wanted to grow lettuce on the family's green wall. Soon they were growing tomatoes and more.
Green Living's first commercial project was in Los Angeles. The firm created a series of "edible walls" and trained residents there to plant and harvest them. The development led to bigger and more productive layouts using parking areas, indoor facilities, abandoned lots, brownfield sites and classrooms, the company said.
Company leaders said the local pilot urban farms should have visible signs of growth in the next few months.
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