The Green Roofs.. From Brooklyn Grange in NYC to Schaduf in Cairo
And so we came to the end of our trip. The NYC module was wrapped up with the sustainability week. For me, the highlight of the week was visiting the roof top farm Brooklyn Grange. Brooklyn grange is a professionally managed roof top farm in NYC. Ben Flanner, the head farmer and the president of Brooklyn grange presented to us the idea of green roofs with an emphasis on the business issues and challenges that they are currently facing as a start-up.
Brooklyn grange started in 2010 and the green roof that we visited is actually one of two roof farms that they own. It’s located in Brooklyn Navy Yard which used to be occupied by US military for construction of ships and war ships during World War Two. The second roof farm is located in Queens. The business model is simple and it is designed to sustain itself. They basically grow vegetables on the roof and sell them. Two years later in 2011, they managed to expand to the second building which totalled as two and half acres.
The idea of green roofs as Ben explained is very simple and can be replicated in any city around the globe. They simply take an existing roof which is a water proof so when they get the heavy rain it is going to disperse and use it in vegetation growing. I was surprised to know that the growth rates of green roofs industry has been 20% in US lately. But what makes Brooklyn Grange unique is that they are couple of the only green roofs in the world that have productive vegetables operations.
The green roofs proved to have many advantages. For example, they collect, contain and manage storm water and use it instead of running into the sewage system. On the other hand, it helps act as insulation to the building that is below it particularly in the peak days of summer as a massive amount of the sun’s energy go into the ceiling and heat up the roof and so people use more air condition which infuses more hot air and contributes to the heating effect.
The rooftop farms idea for me was not new. I actually heard about it like 4 or 5 years ago in Egypt when the Ministry of Education started this initiative to grow plants on the rooftops of the public schools. And while I was searching for this government initiative in Cairo, I came across this young man called Sherif Hosny who turned out to be the Egyptian version of Ben Flanner. He is an Egyptian Entrepreneur who is helping spreading the concept of green roofs in Egypt. He co-founded a company that is using a different type of farming than Brooklyn Grange. They use a type of farming called “farming without soil or Hydroponics” which uses mainly recycled water instead of soil to grow vegetables like lettuce, arugula and parsley. Not only that, but also Sherif is working with NGOs in Cairo’s low income areas and slums to help low income families grow their rooftops to raise their income and grow their own organic food. Overall, I was happy to know that there is a successful business model similar to Brooklyn Grange in Egypt and that there are Egyptian entrepreneurs trying to make a difference by changing Cairo from being one of the most polluted cities in the world into a green city.