The Plant: Chicago meatpacking facility turned vertical farm

What’s the Hog Butcher of the World to do when it’s no longer butchering hogs? How about grow vegetables? That’s the concept behind The Plant, a planned vertical farm in Chicago’s Back of the Yard neighborhood (which is also home to Testa Produce’s new – and very green – distribution center). When complete, the 93,500 square foot facility will house aquaponic growing facilities, and even help sprout numerous sustainable food businesses.

Repurposing a building to grow local produce sounds pretty green already, but Plant Chicago, the non-profit developing the facility, has even bigger plans. Despite its urban location, The Plant will be off-grid: it will produce its own energy through anaerobic digestion of its own wastes, as well as those from nearby food companies. The aquaponics growing model also involves making use of wastes: tilapia tanks provide fertilizer for hydroponically-grown plants, which, in turn, clean water that’s returned to the fish tanks. The Plant will further close the loop by making use of wastes from businesses in its incubator: grain distillery wastes from an on-site brewer, for instance, will feed the tilapia. The project’s mantra, according to owner and developer John Edel: “Nothing leaves but food.”

The Plant strikes me as a vivid metaphor of Chicago’s transformation: the Hog Butcher of the World now aiming to become the greenest city in the US. But the plan itself isn’t Chicago-specific: Plant Chicago plans to publish “a complete, free business case study, including detailed financial and technical information,” hoping others will replicate the model.

Want to keep an eye on this project? The Plant’s regularly posting pictures at Flickr; they’re also sharing their new on Twitter and Facebook.


Image credit: Plant Chicago at Flickr under a Creative Commons license