Former Malt Factory in Berlin to Become Aquaponic Rooftop Farm
December 12, 2011
The concept of urban agriculture is fast taking root in our cities, and while images of towering vertical farms with high-altitude pastures and verdant exteriors may captivate us with their fantastical designs, the greatest leaps and bounds in this area stem from simple, tried and true farming methods and adaptive reuse of pre-existing structures. The latest “farm of the future” on the horizon: the Frisch vom Dach, or the Fresh from the Roof project in Berlin. Der Spiegel recently reported on the efforts of three German entrepreneurs to transform the expansive rooftop of a former malt factory in Berlin into a sustainable urban farm projected to produce tons of vegetables and fish for the city each month. Read on.
According to Der Spiegel, the Fresh from the Roof project plans to create a 7,000-square-meter roof garden, with its first harvest expected in 2013. The innovation comes from the large-scale urban use of aquaponics, a system for sustainable food production that involves harvesting fish and using the ammonia they excrete to serve as plant-fertilizing nitrates. The plants, in turn, return the favor by purifying the water in the fish tanks. As co-founder Karoline vom Böckel explained it, “the beauty of the system is that you just need to add fish food.”
The team has already achieved success in a small-scale prototype, raising fish and growing hydroponic beds of lettuce and tomatoes in a double-decker metal structure fashioned out of a recycled shipping container. Resting on this simple symbiotic relationship, the Fresh from the Roof project has minimal water requirements, allowing it to be reproducible even in areas with a shortage of water. In the case of this Berlin malt factory, fish will be raised in the massive cylindrical vats formerly used to dry barley.
With an abundance of unused space, Berlin has been a prime location for such innovative adaptive reuse projects and an ideal testing site to introduce much needed “locavore” infrastructure and practices. Though Berlin’s new urban farm comes at a considerable price (an estimated $6.7 million), the Fresh from the Roof project aims to not only meet the rising consumer demand for organic, locally-grown produce, but also seed ideas for the future of farming and contemplate how we will feed our rapidly growing cities without devastating the planet with greenhouse gases.
[All Photos © Frisch vom Dach via Der Spiegel]