What is CLOUD 9?
Cloud 9 Urban Rooftop Farm is a burgeoning rooftop farm to be located on a warehouse roof in Philadelphia. Inspired by successful rooftop farms in other major cities like Chicago and New York City, Cloud 9 believes rooftop farming can become a key component to producing regional food and for the city’s plan for sustainable development. While the city is home to hundreds of community gardens and several urban farms, Cloud 9 provides a new research opportunity in urban agriculture. The conventional agricultural system has become increasingly concentrated and centralized making the consumers relationship to their food distant. Urban agriculture provides city residents the oppurtunity to make choices about the food system that feeds them.
Cloud 9 Urban Rooftop Farm is an organic rooftop farm that will be a research site for both planter prototype designs and innovative ways to grow food in an urban environment. We are partnering with PRooF (Philadelphia Rooftop Farm) to test their rooftop planter prototype and encourage city-wide rooftop gardening. To this end, we aim to function as an educational space and demonstration garden for interested parties, in addition to producing for sale in local markets. As fuel prices rise and we become increasingly aware of the impacts our food system is having on the world, we will need to source more food from local producers. Rooftop farming is one way urban spaces can be used creatively to produce food for personal and commercial consumption. We wish to serve as an example of how a little bit of creative planting could drastically increase the food production potential of Philadelphia. Our goal is to permanently enhance the quality of life for ourselves and our community through growing vegetables in a sustainable and economically viable way.
What will we do?
Rooftop farming has a number of benefits and drawbacks. The following are some of the practices we will be exploring:
• Subsoil irrigation to address the increased rate of evaporation inherent in rooftop farming.
• We will test various potting and rooftop growing mediums with an eye for water retention, weight, nutrient content, and stability.
• We will test out garden bed models with an eye for weight, durability, and ease of use and construction.
• We will explore cold frames as a season extender, with the intention of stretching the season to add value to our crops. Elliot Coleman has found that he is able to grow carrots and spinach through the winter in Northern Maine with the help of unheated hoophouses. We suspect that with well-constructed cold frames we could achieve similar results in Philadelphia.
• We aim to make rooftop farming more feasible by testing the ability of the above practices to mitigate complications.
Why Rooftop Farming?
• Improved stormwater management: rooftop farming turns a previously impermeable surface into a predominantly permeable one, thus slowing runoff. This reduces erosion and pollution in local waterways.
• Improved air quality and lessened greenhouse gas emissions: plants absorb carbon dioxide, among other things, and release oxygen. In doing so, they filter the air around them, making it easier for us all to breathe.
• Reduction of the Heat Island Effect: cities are made up of mostly black, impermeable surfaces, which absorb heat, making cities hotter than the surrounding landscape. Water is the most effective temperature stabilizer. With more water in an area, hot days are cooler and cold days are warmer.
• Reduced maintenance costs: roofing material is protected from UV rays when covered by garden beds, thus lengthening its lifespan.