Circular City + Living Systems Lab

August 1, 2021

Commercial Rooftop Greenhouses: Technical requirements, operational strategies, economic considerations, and future opportunities

Forthcoming book chapter in Urban Agriculture and Regional Food Systems, Elsevier

Abstract

Rooftop greenhouses (RG) have become an iconic symbol for integrating Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) in cities and have greatly inspired urban agriculture advocates, architects, and planners. Despite this positive image, few large RGs have been built, and even fewer successful RG farm operations exist. While built examples have shown how to master technical requirements, it is still challenging to make an economic case for commercial food production on urban rooftops and justifying the high upfront investment for RGs. This chapter identifies the most significant challenges and opportunities for investing in this innovative, high-tech urban farming typology. It analyzes two of the most successful commercial rooftop greenhouse operations globally – Lufa Farms in Montreal and Gotham Greens, headquartered in New York City.  And reviews technical, practical, and legal difficulties for constructing greenhouses on roofs, production systems, distribution models, and financial strategies for raising investment capital and pursuing business expansions. Besides considering these technical, operational, and economic factors, the study identifies typology-specific opportunities to generate additional value, marketing opportunities, environmentally sustainable building performance, and social benefits for urban communities. The chapter reflects how RGs can be production facilities in cities and provide other services to urban dwellers. It summarizes how commercial rooftop greenhouses can most impactfully contribute to new urban and regional food systems.

Citation

Proksch, G., Ianchenko, A. (2021). Commercial Rooftop Greenhouses: Technical requirements, operational strategies, economic considerations, and future opportunities. In Urban agriculture and regional food systems: A global handbook on science, engineering, social, economic, business and environmental aspects of the urban food revolution, Peter Droege (Ed.). Elsevier. (forthcoming)