From Roof to Table? Why Retailers are Embracing Rooftop Farms
Food consumers are in the midst of a shift from processed products to a whole food, healthful diet. We’ve talked about it a lot here on the Hubba blog – like here, here and here – to keep you abreast of the trend. I mean, natural and organic food is the fastest growing sector of the American food marketplace. Can’t ignore that, right? But now, like a good story unfolding right before our eyes, the trend is seeping into food retail in the most unexpected way.
Consumers are willing to pay more for products from companies who are committed to positive social and environmental impact, so it’s only natural that retail follow the trend. “We find that a major component to our success is the fact that our produce is grown just a short distance from the stores that we ship to,” says Ken VandeVrede, COO of Edible Garden, a family of local co-op growers specializing in hydroponic produce across the US.
The plot twist? Retailers are going one step further than locally-grown produce by moving farming in-store with the use of greenhouses, stock rooms… and most recently, on their rooftops.
Green roofs have been around a long, long time – homesteaders built sod houses when settling the frontier, according to a study by GSA. They’ve also been grown on US Government buildings since the 1930s. These rooftop farms have benefits aplenty – improved community water quality (from run off), promoting biodiversity, as well as reduced energy consumption and air quality in the host building.
Rooftop farming in small business
From rooftop beekeeping for honey in Tokyo; Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York hotel growing their restaurant’s herbs on the sky-scraper’s roof; to a proposal for a rooftop hydroponic farm atop affordable housing projects in the Bronx; there are great strides being made toward a healthier lifestyle and economy in the food industry.
“Today’s grocers… are enthusiastically embracing the hyper-local trend as a point of differentiation,” says a spokesperson for Gotham Greens, Whole Foods’ rooftop greenhouse collaboration. For small businesses, it’s a great way to decrease your carbon footprint, attract the eco-conscious customers, and engage in your community.
“The best ones are solidifying their position as integral members of their communities by inviting customers to learn about the how’s and why’s of urban farming” VandeVrede continues.
94 percent of consumers say a food product’s transparency is important to their purchase decisions. By opening your doors to reveal a visible manufacturing process, customers will understand you and, ultimately, put their money where their mouth is.