Many urban areas have been finding innovative ways to bring farming into the city, in part to promote healthier and local eating. For St. Paul, Minnesota, that comes in the form of a company called Urban Organics. Using aquaponics, the company grows tilapia and vegetables in an old industrial space, known to locals as The Hamm's Brewery... without the help of sun or soil.
To grow the rich kale, chard and leafy herbs, Urban Organics uses wastewater that is pumped from four 3,500-gallon tanks of tilapia. This water flows through filters to irrigate and fertilize the plants before making its way back to the fish, completely clean. The plants float atop polystyrene rafts, while the roots dangle in fish water. Thanks to going soilless, the entire system uses about a quarter of the water needed in conventional farming, and about 40% less energy than most office buildings.
After Hamm's shut its doors in 1997, many people in East St. Paul lost their jobs. With not much sunlight year round, Urban Organics helps to provide nutritious, fresh and organic food to locals. And, they are certainly noticing.
“People are knocking on the door all the time,” Fred Haberman, co-founder of Urban Organics, told Fast Company. "When they come in and see this for the first time -- a symbol of decay turned into an asset -- they're blown away. This is an experiment, and expectations are very high. But seeing the outpouring of support, that’s very energizing for us."