Urban Farming Thrives in Philly
Jul 03, 2017 12:01PM
● By Martin Miron
Jack Griffin, president of Metropolis Farms and the National Urban Farmers Association, says, “One of the biggest problems with urban farming is that there just isn’t enough of it. For example, Philadelphia has less than 10 acres of urban farming, Chicago has only 12 acres. Our manufacturing capacity makes it possible for us to build out up to 250 acres a month. It’s a game-changer for urban farming and all the people that want year-round local produce.”
Metropolis started in 2013 and built their first farm in 2014. Their factory for building farms, or “the farm works”, has 12 employees and looks to triple in size over the next three months and then triple again. “We are currently building several local farms in the Philadelphia area, including the world’s first solar-powered vertical farm on Delaware Avenue, across from the Home Depot,” says Griffin. Its solar array, the largest in the city, is already up and running and the farm will be in operation by the end of the summer.
“Our research and development facility is in south Philly, where we work on developing crops that taste better and are more nutritious without the use of GMOs and chemicals. We call it ‘natural optimization’,” he says.
Griffin grew up in the working class North Philadelphia River Wards. He spent his childhood playing stickball, soccer and generally getting in trouble with his friends under the shadow of the El, along the then busy industrial streets of Frankford, Kensington and Juniata neighborhoods. Those streets are now among the poorest communities in U.S.—filled with vacant factories and shuttered businesses—and one of the largest urban food deserts in the country. He is a self-described socially responsible capitalist and minimalist. Griffin’s inventions, businesses and personal activities center around social justice, environmental responsibility and economic sustainability.
Griffin’s ultra-efficient Pure Grow Technology powers Metropolis Farms ability to grow the yearly food production of an acre from only 36 square feet. Compared to traditional farming, the technology uses 98 percent less water, 75 less energy and works without the need for pesticides, herbicides or manure. Metropolis is not only the first indoor vertical farm in Philadelphia, but also the first vegan-certified farm in the nation.
Later this summer, Griffin is releasing a new technology for outdoor vertical farming that is inexpensive, easy to build, doesn’t need power, uses very little water and it can grow everything from potatoes to corn, navy beans, strawberries, tomatoes and greens. He says, “It will allow people in cities to grow not only on soil, but on concrete and blacktop and roofs—and it will grow 2.5 times the amount of food in the same space. We are going to use it first to crush food deserts in the U.S., and then we are going to take it to Africa. Best of all, we are giving the patent away for free to anyone in the world that wants to be part of the solution and feed people.”
Though its innovative private and public partnerships, Griffin’s companies are transforming Philadelphia into the world’s first vertical farming city with a network of over 10 100-plus acre
capacity flash farms and sustainable economic ecosystem over the next two years. Cities across the globe have sent private and public delegations to Philadelphia and expressed serious interest in Metropolis Farms’ Philadelphia Plan to create their own sustainable network of flash farms to sustain their ever own populations.
Griffin is also the founder and president of the National Urban Farmers Association (NUFA), focused on helping local and urban farmers throughout the United States obtain government and private funding to build and expand their farms. He states, “Our goal is to make it possible for everyone to farm and grow local food for themselves and their communities. We want to democratize our technology so that everyone can use it to grow. If you’re an urban farmer anywhere in the U.S., please join the National Urban Farmers Association. We are working for you. Right now, there really no money available for urban and local farming in the federal agriculture bill. We are working with Congress to change that; please add your voice to ours.”
Metropolis Farms is located at 2409 S. Water St., in Philadelphia. For more information, call 215-755-2758 email [email protected] or visit MetropolisFarmsUSA.com or nufa.org.