Low-income communities in Chicago are often “food deserts”; defined as impoverished areas that don’t have a full-service grocery store or other source for fresh produce within one mile. Public housing is often at the heart of these food deserts. EarthGrid will be building a 70,000 sq. ft. indoor, controlled-environment farm in partnership with the Chicago Housing Authority to grow food for local students and their families. The farm will serve as the centerpiece of a new 5-acre housing project which will be constructed by the CHA. Food from the vertical farm will be grown to provide fresh produce free to school children in nearby schools, and to their parents at significantly reduced cost through the Farm-to-School Program.
The objective of this IPRO project is to design the 70,000 sq. ft. farm in conjunction with EarthGrid. The farm will be located completely within a newly constructed building, and will feature a sustainable, hydroponics facility that will grow lettuce, spinach, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. The energy used for the facility will be generated from renewable sources.
IPRO team members will develop conceptual designs of the facility and the hydroponic growing system. The team will select the lighting and growing equipment to be used in the farm, and develop a budget for the facility. The team will also develop a business model to support the operation of the farm for the benefit of the children and families served by the facility.
EarthGrid, as the sponsor of the project, is offering to provide support to the team throughout the semester so that it has the information and feedback needed to accomplish its objectives. The faculty member IPRO coash for this course has extensive experience with vertical farms, including the design and construction of the aquaponics facility at The Plant, the first vertical farm in Chicago.