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Are floating gardens New York's next agricultural frontier?

anable basin new york

You want fresh produce in New York? No problem: Residents and activists are converting vacant lots and rooftops into growing spaces at a record pace. While those kinds of spaces aren’t likely to run out anytime soon, Cooper Union architecture student Karim Ahmed is tinkering with the technology necessary to take advantage of yet another: the city’s waterways. His project would grow food hydroponically on “floating gardens,” the first of which he’s anchored in Long Island City’s Anable Basin.

Sounds like a way to grow some food, but probably not a lot, right? Ahmed would disagree: He notes in his successful Kickstarter project that while current hydroponic systems can’t compete with land-based agriculture in terms of yields, there is a model we can explore for scaling up water-based agriculture. The chinampas created by the Aztecs used artificial islands to grow food for a whole city surrounded by swampland. Ahmed’s model draws inspiration from the chinampas, and combines it with modern hydroponic technology to grow everything from fruit trees to kale to sunflowers. Take a look at his explanation:

Ahmed believes his model addresses the lack of both environmental and economic sustainability in the current agricultural paradigm. His research proposal is a bit long but provides a thorough overview of the failures of large-scale agriculture as developed over the past 50 years, as well as the potential created by chinampas-style hydroponics.

A dreamer? Perhaps. But he’s hard at work fabricating the first one at a shop in Brooklyn, so we’ll get a chance to see how well his dream lines up with reality. I’m fascinated myself — let us know what you think about this model for growing food offshore. (via Inhabitat)

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Photo credit: A Tree for Anable Basin via photo pin cc