Photo: The Plant
The Plant is a 93,500-square-foot eco-farm in Chicago that produces no waste and has its own environmentally clean energy source.Oh, and did we mention that it used to be a meatpacking factory and slaughterhouse?
With a five-person staff and over 1,500 volunteers, these environmental warriors have started transforming the Peer Foods meatpacking building into the paradigm of green food production.
The facility has a vegetable farm, a tilapia farm, a beer brewery, a commercial kitchen and Kombucha brewery, all of which have been entered into a symbiotic relationship so that all waste is reused to the benefit of The Facility.
The Plant will also bring in around 125 new jobs.
The Plant will not be complete until around 2017, but already in just a couple years the site has come a remarkably long way from its meatpacking roots.
The factory was previously owned by Peer Foods and used as meatpacking facility since 1925. This factory was picked for the site of The Plant partly because the building's materials are in good condition and can be reused.
This is the main hallway of the factory as it originally looked. The Plant intends on reusing 80% of the factory's existing materials in the new construction.
The bacon freezer as it looked in the meatpacking days. The building was particularly attractive for its high-grade steel, fibre-reinforced polymer and other building materials that the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires of food processing facilities.
One of the old smokers before deconstruction. It may look dirty, but the factory was also attractive because it had no asbestos or lead piping due to USDA regulations.
The first step in the transition of the building from a meatpacking facility was simply taking down the cinder blocks that obstructed the windows. The blocks, like most of the materials, are set aside to be reused later.
Deconstruction begins and the smoker is torn apart. Remarkably the paid staff only consists of two full-time and 3 part-time members. The rest of the work force are volunteers, with an estimated 1,500 people providing assistance so far.
LED lights are installed over the growing beds, seeds are planted and sprouts begin to appear. The vegetables are in a circular relationship with nearby tilapias, with the tilapias contributing nitrates that allow the plants to grow and the plants purifying the water for the fish.
A short time later and one of the beds is full of fresh arugula, a far leap from the meatpacking facility just a few months back.
Next door to the growing beds, fish tanks are unloaded. These will be the homes of the tilapia, whose waste will serve as nutrition for their plant neighbours.
Baby tilapia float around a fish tank. Two different breeds of tilapia were crossed to breed only males, so that all the fish stay the same size and big ones don't begin to eat smaller ones.
Tilapia swimming around in a tank. These fish tanks are connected to a filtration system, which takes the nitrates out of their waste and sends them to the the grow beds.
The fish tanks all set up next to the grow beds. Those pipes are the filtration system that sends the nitrates from the fish tanks to the vegetables.
A beautiful look at the fresh vegetables sprouting from a grow bed. Both the vegetables and fish will be sold to local markets.
The Plant's new sign. Although the whole facility will not be up and running until 2017 there has been quite a change from the meatpacking plant of a few years ago to the eco-farm of today.
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