On the roof of the Rouses Market on Baronne Street in downtown New Orleans, an herb garden flourishes. However, you won’t find on the market’s flat roof a traditional glass green house, soil, or rows of potted planters. The garden looks more like a futuristic scene from Disney World’s Tomorrow Land than a grocery store’s personal farm.
Appropriately named The Roots on the Rooftop, the garden is an aeroponic urban farm, the first of its kind in the United States
to be built on the roof of a grocery store. The plants grow upward out of soil-less towers rather than horizontally and outward. A constant flow of water, air, and nutrients through the vertical aeroponic Tower Garden allows the herbs to grow twice as fast, while taking up less space.
The innovative garden is the outcome of a beneficial partnership between Rouses and New Orleans-based company A.M.P.S., which has been providing the technical expertise and management services to the grocer’s cutting-edge garden. The new rooftop endeavor has put New Orleans at the forefront of innovative solutions to urban farming, and has shown the positive results that come when established companies work with the city’s emerging entrepreneurs.
A.M.P.S., which stands for Aquaponics Modular Production Systems, builds, designs, and manages aquaponic and hydroponic farm systems to help grow fresh produce for local consumers with the use of minimal energy. The company’s first demonstration site at Hollygrove Market and Farm has been producing an average of 50 pounds of produce each week using the soil-less towers, in the process using 90 percent less water than it would usually take. With the addition of the new farm at Rouses, the A.M.P.S. team’s approach is to facilitate farming needs in a way that is healthy and environmentally friendly, as well as time and cost efficient.
Doug Jacobs, founder of A.M.P.S., was first introduced to the concept of aeroponics at a young age while visiting Disney World’s Tomorrow Land, and was fascinated by how these systems were used to represent the future of farming as a means to sustain the growing population, conserve resources, and prevent droughts. With the development of his company last year, Jacobs has applied the same techniques to create systems that can be implemented into modern lifestyles.
“We want to show that people can create businesses where they can make a good living and simultaneously do good things to help other people and the environment,” says Jacobs about the impact he hopes to make on the community.
Besides receiving support this past year from Tulane’s Changemaker Institute and The Idea Village’s 2012 IDEAxcelerator Program, A.M.P.S. will be joining Propeller’s (formerly the Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans) 2012-2013 Venture Accelerator Program this summer. In addition, A.M.P.S will also begin installing aeroponic systems in Anchorage, Alaska at a site that will act as a training center for urban farming at Artic Aurora Farms, starting this month.
Roots on the Rooftop officially launched yesterday at the Rouses Market, where the garden’s fresh herbs will be available for sale to Rouses customers, as well as used by the grocery’s chefs for their prepared food line.