Farming without soil has taken root in fish tanks and window frames. But above 10th Street in Manhattan’s West Village, John Mooney is hydroponically farming produce on the roof of his soon-to-be restaurant, Bell, Book & Candle. He is the first chef in the U.S. to grow all of his produce on a rooftop farm.
Eighty diners a night sample whatever is in season—greens, garbanzo beans, summer squash, lettuces, tomatoes, broccoli rabe—for 10 months out of the year. On the roof, hydroponic towers circulate water to plants through a closed circuit. At its base, each tower has a nutrient-rich reservoir which pumps water upward. As water trickles down from a center passage, plant roots receive their nourishment. The towers use 12 minutes of energy an hour, running on three-minute cycles.
Mooney’s produce is free of typical soil disease and pest infestation. Since he has produced it all himself, it’s also incredibly affordable. Start-up costs can be steep for hydroponic systems, but with their promise of efficiency and high-yield, “roof-to-table” hydroponics may provide New Yorker’s with another way to maximize their valuable, cramped real estate.
Check out Nightline’s report on the chef and his garden.