In Chicago, a former meatpacking plant is going green. The emerging business complex, known simply as The Plant, promises to set a remarkable example for sustainable food production and business practices.
A full one-third of the building’s 93,500 square feet will be dedicated to vertical farming, using aquaponic methods in which fish and plants are raised concurrently to form a symbiotic relationship – essentially a cross between hydroponics and fish farming. The remaining two-thirds of the building will be leased to a variety of sustainable food businesses, including a brewery, bakeries, kombucha brewery, and a mushroom farm, among others. Waste from one business will provide fuel for another; the mushroom farm thrives on spent grain from the brewery while fish from the aquaponic growing systems will enjoy the brewery’s spent barley. Neighboring business are also invited to contribute their food scraps. Electricity will be provided by the on-site turbine generator which in turn will be powered by bio gas emitted from The Plant’s anaerobic digester.
The Plant is currently in the construction phases and is expected to be completed between 2016 and 2017. Seven tenants have already opened shop with more expected as various renovation projects reach completion. The end result will be a sustainable, self-sufficient business complex that will promote economic growth in the surrounding Back of the Yards neighborhood and serve as a model for green technologies. Tours of the developing complex are offered Thursday through Saturday.