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Arts & Culture

Could this be the future of farming?

Green Sky Growers shows the way with a self-contained aquaponics system on a Winter Garden rooftop

Photo: , License: N/A

Photo: , License: N/A


But it’s not all about making money. Aquaponic farming can be used to address famine in arid countries and provide an alternative farming method on islands where land and fresh water are scarce. “We set up a large one in an orphanage in Haiti to feed the kids,” Chatterson says.

Green Sky sells its produce to area restaurants, at the neighboring Seeds Natural Market and at the Winter Garden farmers market. Chatterson can’t keep up with demand. “We need a couple of more roofs,” he jokes. “We have a lot more requests than we can handle.”

AlFresco Restaurant, located below the greenhouse on the ground floor of the Garden Building, brings new meaning to the “farm to table” concept. Fresh herbs, lettuce and tomatoes are often delivered daily to the restaurant, and tilapia is brought down on ice 20 minutes after harvesting. “It really surprises people when they hear where the fish comes from,” says AlFresco’s chef, Rob Gioia.

The close proximity to Green Sky allows AlFresco added flexibility in their menu. Gioia tells the story of a customer who really wanted a Caesar salad, but the kitchen was out of romaine. So, “I went upstairs and picked the lettuce myself. The customer loved it.”

Since Green Sky is able to closely control the climate in the greenhouse, they are able to extend the growing season and time the harvest of fish and produce to meet customers’ demands with peak-of-the-season products. “They can pretty much grow anything we ask them to,” says Gioia, who obtains specialty herbs like cocoa mint and lemon thyme from Green Sky and often plans his specials around what his upstairs neighbors are harvesting.

As impressive as Green Sky’s operation is, a state-of-the-art facility isn’t necessary. “You could go to an empty parking lot and set up a farm within a month,” Chatterson says. “It’s really easy. You can do it anywhere.” At home, a patch of dead grass or an unused cement patio could provide a bountiful harvest. Sylvia Bernstein’s website, aquaponicgardening.com, is a great place for beginners to start.

“Traditional farmers are scared,” Chatterson says. “But they have to look forward. This is going to be big.”

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