Rooftop Farming is the system of creating green spaces on building rooftops for growing vegetables and fruits. From simple greens like spinach, mint, cabbage to bottle gourd, ivy gourd, sunflower, strawberries and cauliflowers, the practice provides a huge array of food growing options. Yester decade has seen it as an accelerated trend in urban societies. Ron Finley, a U.S. based urban gardener known for his ‘Gangsta Garden’ says, “We’ve gotten so far away from our food source. It has been hijacked from us. But if you get soil, plant something in it and water it, you can feed yourself. It is that simple.”
We have been growing plants on roofs since ancient times. In Mesopotamian culture, long buildings’ roofs were used to grow plants and they were irrigated.With technology (hydronics, automated irrigation etc.), farming vegetables up there has become easy.
Pursuing it requires an open roof, irrigation system, pots/containers/grow bags, green shade (to protect from intense heat) and trellis support (depending on the type of crop). An amateur producer should choose any native vegetable/fruit crop(s) that fits the space and gives the best harvest.
Why Rooftop Farming is becoming Popular?
To understand why, we must:
- know the reason behind people’s aversion to market-bought foods
- study the relevance of rooftop farming practice
- analyze its productive aspect
- know the advantages it has to offer
Addressing the Problem
People are growing conscious of the malpractices in the Fruits and Vegetables sector. They are seeking ‘healthier’ and fresh sources of food with no added preservatives and untouched by high-risk chemicals over store-bought food supplies. Organically grown food are cured with manures, composts and natural pesticides which is why their nutritional value isn’t tarnished.
Chemicals like Oxytocin, Calcium Carbide and Ethephon are usually added to freshly grown foods. Chemical-based pesticides (malathion, organochlorines, captafol etc.) are extensively used which is why people are growing aversive of them.It not only spoils the soil but also deteriorates the food quality. The natural components of food (vitamins and minerals) are required by the body for proper functioning. If it does more bad than good, we must rethink about our food choices because if consumed,we may fall prey to serious health problems.Hence, many are resorting to building their own vegetable farms and becoming self-reliant. It is a simple and steadfast skill. The one who grows their own food, know what they eat will be safe.
The vegetables are often affected with chemicals that adversely impact its taste, growth, ripeness or texture. It is undeniably evident how these food items are contaminated. It is everyone’s right to eat what they like. It is appalling to have such degraded quality of food when there is clearly no shortage of fresh food. Quality control and organized shipping are essential in food sector. This way, distribution would be more organized resulting in less food wastage. The buyer gets access to a fresher produce.
Relevance of Rooftop Farming
Vegetables and fruits are perishable items. Because of this, the retailers have to carefully make them appear ‘good enough’ to send them to the buyer’s kitchen. We see apples, brinjals, mangoes covered in oil/wax to make them look shinier. Truth is, fruits/vegetables do have a natural blurred shine of their own but they are natural items after all. The food items now have presence of unusual cavity or abnormal growth. Such food items take longer than usual to cook.
The tomatoes are sprayed with chemicals to keep insects at bay and injected to ripe faster. What is prominent in these tomatoes is an atypical hardiness, which a naturally ripened (till it turns red) food item like tomato can never achieve. To test this, take a home-grown tomato and a store-bought one and cook them together. What we will see is that the latter takes longer to cook.
Many tangerines come out ‘dry and tasteless’ on the inside because of the effect of the chemicals. It is hard to find ‘tasty’ mangoesbecause it is extremely rare that they would not be inflicted with Calcium Carbide. The taste is displeasing and it ends up irritating the throat. The quality is being valued more than quantity so the appearance of the food might deceive the buyer but the taste would always bring the real picture
We are living in a world where population is multiplying fast and there is abundance of food, yet many go unfed because of huge food wastage and then to cope up with the shortage, more and more detestable practices are brought to use. Only if we had local retailers who grow fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits, this could be avoided. When people are closer to their source of food, they trust it because they know where the food is coming from. This is because, the food is never too old, they don’t have to be packaged for too longso there is lesser chance of a spoilt food being brought, they would not ‘require’ those ripening agents because the distance between the producer and consumer is shortened. With a rooftop farming venture of our own, we can have access to a variety of freshly grown vegetables and fruits.Therefore, it turns out to be the need of the hour.
Empty roofs receive high temperature sunlight which is why they are appropriate for growing food. This also ensues warming of the building which becomes overwhelming during peak summer days. They receive sunlight most part of the day and have a large capacity.
How Productive Can One Be?
Owing to the fact that concrete roofs have enough space, one can start with one vegetable at a time. Gourds are very producer-friendly.They come in huge variety and keeping in mind the suitability, one can grow either(or two) type(s) liberally. They grow and spread fast, self-pollinate, attract bees and are low maintenance. The only prerequisite is a support system. Opting for a multilayered roof can yield even better harvest. Having one’s own farm gets through as a version of subsistence farming where we eat what we grow.
Perquisites of Rooftop Farms
- Investing in a farm means access to fresh and inexpensive food all the year round.
- It is a productive hobby not barred by the terrestrial restrictions but making use of the fallow extents of urban settings.
- Consumer-friendly – The local farms are a blessing for the buyers in its periphery: easy access, lowered prices, shorter distance, less wastage, minimal middlemen and lesser involvement of chemicals. It creates a shorter supply chain.
- Architectural designs in modern times are incorporating plants and garden spaces to enhance its aesthetic value.
- Emotional aspect – For urban inhabitants, this is a great scope to connect with nature. Being around nature is deeply fancied by our minds. People who settled in the cities and left behind the countryside, need not miss the greenery. Instead, they can grow anything that they like and that suits the place.
- Environmental benefit – Usually, the city expanses lack the natural flora and we often feel trapped inside our homes with too much heat and no fresh air. More and more people are succumbed to heat waves and respiratory problems because the environment doesn’t support fresh air anymore.More plantation is an invitation to more birds and fresh and breathable air (less dust). It helps to get rid of intense heat enclosed in the building.
- Agri-Business– It is a profitable venture in the urban areas. People wanting fresh foods can buy produce from the nearest farm. They can be trusted as there will be less middlemen involved. The shipment costs would be lesser and offer more timely delivery.
- In times of food shortage, locals would have a nearby food source for supply. This way, they will always be near to resources in times of urgent need.
Rooftop farming has a great scope in today’s times. With compromised food quality, the people are starting to opt for safer food sources. They are becoming conscious buyers. It is with spreading awareness about organic food that more shops have begun to offer organic food. But food enthusiasts find it hard to devour as they come with high price tags. This also boosted the popularity of rooftop farms. People prefer fresh and organic food to avoid flavor mishaps, food wastage and the risks of long-term health issues. It is important to have a reliable source of food that not only feeds but also cares for sustainable development and promotes a good hobby.