Arch + Eng, Art, Design, Education, Sci + Tech, Social Impact

Dispatches from the Field: Plant Chicago

Plant Chicago was featured as a Semifinalist in the Fuller Challenge in 2011. In the lead up to their presentation at our symposia this week in St. Louis we circled back with them for updates on their work since their first application.

Bubbly Dynamics and Plant Chicago NFP are continuing work on “The Plant” a net-zero vertical farm and food business incubator housed in a 93,500 square foot former pork packing facility in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. Currently, the building houses ten small business—three vertical farms, two outdoor farms, two bakers, a cheese wholesaler, a shrimp farm, and a kombucha brewer. Construction on a new foyer and retail store has begun after a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised over $60,000 and is expected to be completed by fall 2014, making the building ADA accessible and providing a retail outlet for food producers in the building.

Operating on an investor-less model, work also continues in other common areas of the building and future tenant spaces as reclaimed materials and time are available. The anaerobic digester is currently under construction, which will divert 10,000 tons of organic food waste from landfills to provide sufficient renewable energy to support the building and tenants. Plant Chicago, the non-profit side of the plant, operates educational programming on a wide-range of topics including urban space reuse, local and sustainable food production, waste reuse, and energy creation and conservation. A workshop series created this year on these topics has been successful, and there are plans to expand the educational programming to schools. Plant Chicago also operates educational growing systems at The Plant to demonstrate urban food production, including a mushroom growing operation and an aquaponics farm. The mushroom program is in year two of a three-year business development plan, producing 50 pounds of oyster mushrooms per week with a goal of producing 200 pounds of mushrooms by the end of 2014! The aquaponics farm is expanding into the common areas of the building, so that the foyers, stairwells, windows and community areas will grow organic produce and provide interior landscaping. To learn more about The Plant please visit: