food / travel

Urban Farms, Supersized. Largest Ever Rooftop Garden To Be Big As Football Field

A trio of German entrepreneurs is hoping to convert an old industrial building in Berlin into the world's largest rooftop farm. Plans for the self-sustaining organic spread, which should be up and running by 2013, include a fertilizing fish farm

Rooftop city farming is growing more and more popular
Rooftop city farming is growing more and more popular


BERLIN - If all goes as planned, a sprawling organic farm will soon be up and running a stone's throw away from a six-lane autobahn in Berlin's Südkreuz industrial zone.

By spring 2013, tons of lettuce, kohlrabi (a variety of cabbage), tomatoes and herbs are expected to be growing under protective glass roofing – on a city rooftop, some 7,000 square meters of it, an area as big as a soccer field. And in the building underneath, say the three 30-something Berliners behind the ambitious project, there will also be an aquaponic fish farm.

"The beauty of our plan is it's self-sufficient. Only fish food has to be brought in from the outside," says Nicolas Leschke, one of the three entrepreneurs. Water containing excretions from fish bred in large tubs will fertilize the produce, leaving clean water to flow through the closed water circuit back to the fish.

"Our intention is for this to be the biggest roof farm in the world," Leschke adds. He and his partners are part of a small but growing international urban farming movement. "It's ridiculous to continue growing produce only in the countryside that then has to be trucked to cities," says project partner Christian Echternacht.

"All the resources we need are available through renewable energy and rainwater collection," says third partner Karoline von Böckel, who is responsible for ensuring the project's optimum sustainability. Farm production will be sold on site and in stores in the immediate vicinity, she says.

In cooperation with the Berlin Institute of Technology, the three young Berliners are presently fine tuning their feasibility study. The project will cost 5 million euros, and investors are being sought. Even if they don't find any, says Leschke, "nobody's going to stop us. 2012 is the International Year of Sustainable Energy For All and there will be plenty of support programs for pioneers like us."

Read the full original article in German by Julia Becker

Photo - New Brunswick Tourisme | Tourisme Nouveau-Brunswick

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

— Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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