Edenworks: The Future of Rooftop Farming

Photos by Jane Bruce
Photos by Jane Bruce

It was a brilliantly sunny (if cold and blustery) early spring day when I found myself wandering around Bushwick looking for the garden of Eden. Well, OK. Not the literal garden of Eden, though in many ways, as close to Eden as Bushwick gets. I was looking for Edenworks, a sky-high greenhouse which just might wind up revolutionizing rooftop farming as we know it.

Edenworks—founded by Jason Green, Ben Silverman, and Matt La Rosa—is not just any rooftop farm. It employs the system of aquaponic farming, whereby plants and fish live in a closed environment together, essentially feeding and feeding off each other, with a data-driven approach that is far more technological than what most people think of when they think of “rooftop farming.” In other words, the kind of farming being done at Edenworks has little to do with the little herb garden you have on your fire escape.

When I finally found Edenworks, I was given a tour by La Rosa, who guided me around the greenhouse, past huge vats of swimming tilapia, rows of vertically terraced plantings that included chard, radishes, and bright yellow, fist-size marigolds, and multiple machines, all of which were tracking the highly calibrated amounts of nutrients being supplied to the plants by the fish, in the form of, well, poop.

The most exciting thing about aquaponic farming is that it’s incredibly energy efficient and the process itself creates almost no waste—even the fish wind up eventually being fed by fly larvae that, in turn, have fed off the compost created by excess plant material. But none of this would matter all that much if the plants being grown were just the kind of tasteless hothouse tomatoes that New Yorkers have to deal with (or forgo) come winter. Luckily, the food at Edenworks measures up to some of the best produce I’ve ever had: The radish microgreens had a sharp, peppery bite that was instantly addictive, and the Swiss chard was earthy and rich, like if “green” was a flavor instead of a color. If this is what the future tastes like, we’re in for a treat.



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