Situated on top of Israel’s oldest shopping mall in Tel Aviv, “Green in the City” is a spectacular urban farm that produces a variety of leafy vegetables all year round, thanks to organic and hydroponic agricultural techniques that don’t require soil. As revealed by the developers, it is just one of the many green initiatives undertaken by the Dizengoff Center mall, which also houses a rooftop apiary, specially-designed habitats for birds, a tree nursery as well as a bat cave.
Operational since 2015, Green in the City was the result of a collaboration between the shopping mall’s sustainability center and LivinGreen, an Israel-based company that specializes in hydroponics and aquaponics. With cities fast becoming overcrowded, the problem of inadequate food production, especially in urban locations, is burgeoning. According to a United Nations report, for instance, more than 66-percent of the world population will be residing in cities by the year 2050; a huge jump from the current 54-percent.
In addition to alleviating the city’s food crisis to an extent, this innovative rooftop farm strives to provide the people of Tel Aviv with fresh, organic produce that is also surprisingly affordable. Furthermore, it offers assistance to anyone who wishes to start a hydroponic garden at his/her home. Green in the City includes two greenhouses with a total planting area of around 750 square meters, which together produce over 10,000 heads of a variety of leafy vegetables throughout the year. At any given time, as many as 17 different types of vegetables and herbs are grown in conjunction, on a rotational basis.
The process, which is based on the Deep Water Culture system, starts by placing the seedlings directly underneath the holes in the floating foam rafts. As the roots slowly grow through the holes, the water below them gets insulated from the incident sunlight. Using an air pump, the water is then oxygenated and infused with nutrients that in turn facilitate the growing process. The water, oxygen and nutrient levels are carefully monitored throughout the year for best results.
This technique, the developers state, allows them to grow vegetables twice as fast as conventional methods, while using less water and land and producing less waste. What’s more, the crops are grown without the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, making them safer to consume. The facility, however, is not received its organic certification as the country’s laws recognizes only soil-grown vegetables and fruits as organic.
The chief aim of the initiative is to promote the concept of hydroponic farming in urban areas crippled with food shortage. Workshops as well as community outreach programs are designed to help residents build hydroponic and aquaponic systems at home, including home biogas units and portable greenhouse boxes. Participants are also taught how to cook delectable meals using fresh vegetables, such as bok choy. LivinGreen, the team behind Green in the City, also sells hydroponic home kits at the farm.
Most of the produce, which includes lettuce, celery, chives, basil and so on, are sold locally to Tel Aviv-based restaurants and households, with deliveries usually made with the help of bicycles. The Dizengoff shopping mall also sells some of the organic vegetables through what they call the Honesty Stand. The developers are currently looking to expand the project to multiple locations, starting with another farm within Tel Aviv.