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Chicago's First Vertical Farm Secures $1.5 Million in Grant Funding

By Betsy Mikel in News on Sep 21, 2011 7:40PM

Amaranth under grow lights at The Plant. Photo courtesy of The Plant
When we last checked in on The Plant, it was still closer to the shell of the meatpacking plant it once was than the self sufficient urban farm it aims to become. But it was well on its way. The Plant will combine some standard urban farming techniques with some new ones specific to this facility to eventually become a net-zero energy vertical farm. Although The Plant has 93,500 square feet to support with 380 kilowatts of electricity and 2.1 million BTU of heat, it’s not all just lofty ideas. The Plant has a comprehensive business and operations plan, and it looks like it could work. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity thinks so, too.

Last week, The Plant announced that DCEO had awarded them $1.5 million in grants. Two separate grants will go towards supporting the project — DCEO’s Large Customer Energy Efficiency grant and DCEO’s Food Scrap Composting Revitalization and Advancement Program. The Plant will cost $3 million total and will be completed in 2013. Thanks to this grant, it’s very possible that very soon, you could be buying local produce grown in an old meatpacking plant in the South Side. And according to Warren Ribley, Director of DCEO, Illinois is requiring at least 20 percent of its food purchases come from local sources by 2020. This is another step in that direction.

Once fully operational, The Plant aims to divert more than 6,500 tons of food waste from landfills each year to meet all of its heat and power needs, offer low rent and energy costs for it tenants, and give 125 more Chicagoans jobs. To learn more about how The Plant will function — aquaponics, anaerobic digester, brewery, and all — visit The Plant’s website.