FarmRoof is the world’s first and only certified organic green roof system!
Blog: Monthly Archives: January 2012
By Martha Cheng
In Brooklyn, I visited a rooftop farm that overlooked the Manhattan skyline. Honolulu’s first urban rooftop farm is on top of an auto dealership in Kakaako.
It’s the juxtaposition of urban and rural that makes farm roofs so exciting. The reality is, we’re not all cut out for rural life, but with rooftop farming, we can bring a little bit of the agrarian into town. At a glance, rooftop farms make sense: utilize unused space to grow food. But there are challenges: irrigation, heat (10 minutes on top of AutoMart, and everyone was sweating), the weight of plants and soil and maintenance. Alan Joaquin, founder of FarmRoof, the certified-organic system on top of AutoMart, thinks he has it figured out. He’s also the founder of Wiki Garden and has adapted the modular, lightweight garden-in-a-sock system for roofs. From his test plot on top of Sweet Home Waimanalo, he sells produce to Whole Foods. On top of AutoMart, he has 38,000 square feet of rooftop to grow kale, arugula, Asian mustard and other rooftop-hardy plants, which he plans to offer to the neighborhood via a CSA.
Construction of 680 Ala Moana, an affordable housing development, also began last week (the day after the FarmRoof blessing), and rumor is it will also boast a rooftop farm. Kamehameha Schools, as part of its 15-year Kakaako master plan, is currently developing the neighborhood with an eye toward arts and culture and sustainability. (It’s a sign of the times when Kamehameha Schools, which previously sought a 28-fold rent hike on ag lands, is now carving out a bit of urban land for farming).
Read the original Blog HERE
Top two reasons to eat fresh-from-the-ground produce?
Ask Alan Joaquin, president of FarmRoof, a young firm dedicated to making farm-fresh produce available for O’ahu residents. He’ll tell you that the nutrient density of just-harvested vegetables is greater than that of produce that’s been shipped in from elsewhere. And besides, the flavor is often so different that it’s surprising. I thought I knew how yellow u’ala (sweet potatoes) tasted — bland, unremarkable — until recently when I had one fresh from a local farm at Mark Noguchi’s He’eia Kea Pier General Store & Deli.
FarmRoof has been operating a small garden on the roof of the Sweet Home Cafe in Waimanalo for three years, selling a baby kale-arugula-Chinese mustard green mix to members of their community supported agriculture (CSA) subscription program ($10 a week for a weekly surprise basket from the farm). This blend of greens has been available at Whole Foods and is used by chefs such as Alan Wong (Alan Wong’s restaurant), Kevin Hanney (12th Ave. Grill and SALT), Vikram Gorg (Halekulani) and Alan Tsuchiyama (Le Bistro).
But the supply is temporarily slowed because now, in cooperation with the Kamehameha Schools, they’re bringing their wares to town. Wednesday, they held a press day to announce a plan for a roof garden atop the old CompUSA on Ala Moana between Keawe and Punchbowl. As the property owner, Kamehameha Schools helped broker a deal with the lessee, Automart USA.
Altogether, there are 38,000 square feet of rooftop (which you can only see from the air or one of the tall nearby buildings), partly planted now in FarmRoof’s trademark supergreen mix.
The plan includes a Farmers’ Cafe at 331 Keawe, across the street diamondhead. There, FarmRoof will host workshops, films and forums and will disseminate information on their efforts. They will also be working with Kamehameha Schools, which already had a commitment to create a sustainable urban environment on the lands they own in Kaka’ako. And Honolulu-side CSA customers can pick up their baskets. Or, if 20 persons in a single building in the financial district all sign up, they’ll deliver to the office.
Rooftop gardens sound like a great idea in a place like Honolulu, where many roofs are flat and there’s plenty of sunshine and rain. But you can’t just throw some soil on the roof, or even a bunch of boxes or planters, unless you’re willing to risk the roof coming down. Instead, FarmRoof employs lightweight “socks” to contain the soil and vegetables. These nylon-mesh containers, shaped like a split sausage, also release excess water, which is captured in a catchment system.
A FarmRoof gardener, whose name I neglected to get, said she growsgreens, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and more, all organically, in Waimanalo. Joaquin said their most reliable success has come with heirloom vegetables, herbs and their “supergreens” mix.
One reason is the soil, composed of composted matter and other things and outfitted with 70 different minerals and trace elements. They’ve been working with Dr. Corilee Watters at University of Hawai’i to document the nutritional content of their produce and perhaps to create a roof garden in a UH laboratory building.
Joaquin’s advice to anyone who is interested in this project and the produce is to go to www.farmroof.com or to call (808) 396-9454 to sign up for the Community Supported Agriculture plan so you’ll be ahead in line when the garden starts producing.
To Read the Original Article, or to view Wanda Adam’s Blog Site, Click HERE
Linda Chiem, Reporter - Pacific Business News
Honolulu entrepreneur Alan Joaquin is literally taking organic farming to new heights by planting organic farms on the rooftops of buildings across Hawaii, using a proprietary new technology he has developed over the past several years.
Joaquin, who calls himself an “ecopreneur,” is promoting sustainable agriculture in urban landscapes with the goal of feeding Hawaii residents with more locally grown organic vegetables without having to compete for hard-to-come-by farm land.
His niche business, FarmRoof Hawaii, marries new technology and an untapped segment of real estate. He intends to roll it out statewide and eventually market it to major metropolitan areas such as San Francisco, Chicago and New York City later this year.
The technology involves mesh “biosock” modules packed with a soil-less compost blend of antioxidants, nutrients and minerals and outfitted with an irrigation system. Joaquin says it represents an evolution in the sustainable-food movement.
The modules can be installed on concrete rooftops to eventually produce “superfood” leafy greens such as kale, arugula and Asian mustard greens. FarmRoof Hawaii already has started selling to the likes of Whole Foods Market, Alan Wong Restaurant, Halekulani, 12th Avenue Grill and SALT.
Certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the company touts itself as the world’s first and only certified organic green roof system.
The challenge has been getting people and customers to understand the FarmRoof concept. It’s a proprietary system and not a product sold in stores. However, Joaquin’s earlier version of the FarmRoof, a gardening system packed into a smaller version of the “biosock” tube called the Wiki Garden, was sold in stores such as City Mill for two years before he pulled the product line last year to focus on expanding FarmRoof Hawaii beyond the everyday consumer level.
“We cherry-pick our partners because all these people that we’ve started selling to are people we felt could expose our technology in the best way,” Joaquin said. “They know what we’re doing, what we’re about, and give us credibility. We don’t want our technology to be a commodity or a product. It’s a brand and a commercial farming operation that we’re looking for other like-minded ‘ecopreneurs’ to pass the technology on to.”
The company launched in 2008 and went through two years of research and development without generating revenue. By 2010, it generated $64,000 in sales with the Wiki Garden. Now, going forward with FarmRoof, which currently employs eight people, Joaquin envisions multiple revenue streams that will include selling the organically grown vegetables direct to grocers and restaurants as well as through community-supported agriculture programs.
But the bigger money makers likely will be the licensing agreements and royalties to come when FarmRoof starts licensing its rooftop farming system to interested operators or building owners, all of whom will be required to attend “FarmRoof University” at the company’s Waimanalo farm to learn how to properly install and operate the system. He declined to disclose what those licensing fees will be.
“When people think of farming, it’s so unsexy, it’s not glitzy or glamorous,” Joaquin said. “This is such a nontraditional approach to it that it’s catering to the next generation interested in sustainability and the triple bottom line.”
Whole Foods Market, which sells FarmRoof’s packaged greens at its Kahala Mall store, currently is in discussions with both FarmRoof and Kahala Mall management to potentially install a rooftop farm at that location, Joaquin said.
“FarmRoof is a tremendously exciting farm and business because it is transforming previously dead urban spaces in Honolulu into vibrant, productive places,” said Claire Sullivan, community and vendor relations coordinator for Whole Foods Market in Hawaii. “This is a great contribution to the development of a robust local food system in Hawaii, and helps challenge the notion that Honolulu and Oahu are just markets, not producers, of food.”
Joaquin admits that it often has been a tough sell getting other building owners and operators to open their doors to FarmRoof to install a rooftop farming system because of concerns about weight and liability. He said such concerns are mitigated by the fact that the system is lightweight at five pounds per square feet, keeping it well within the load capacities of most building rooftops.
Still, he’s open to crafting deals and agreements that include profit-sharing or paying a small rental fee to buildings to gain access to rooftops.
The payoff for the building owner or manager is reduced energy costs because the building is cooled by the “green roof,” he said. Also, the buzz and curiosity factor attached to a novelty like a farm roof could help drive sales through more foot traffic or attract new tenants to help lower building vacancy rates.
“Our slogan is more than a farm, more than food, and what we represent is sustainable hope and vision,” Joaquin said. “What we sell is not just food; what we’re selling is nutrition, wellness, respect, and that all comes from the people. It’s like the saying, ‘All boats rise with the tide,’ so we want all these small local farmers to rise with us because we’re so visible and we’re so sticky right now.”
Joaquin, who is married to Hawaii News Now television anchor Tannya Joaquin, has 20 years of experience in agriculture, engineering, environmental protection and landscape construction. Despite his experience, he said he was rejected in the early days by banks, investment groups and philanthropists who dismissed the FarmRoof concept as a pipe dream.
“I just said I’ll prove it, that I can do this bootstrapped, and now we have equity position where we call the shots, but I’ve personally invested my own savings into building this company into what it is,” he said. “We’ve worked through all these kinks, the system is workable, and we do need to expand, we do need more employees, and we do need more capital.”
Address: 41-829 Kakaina St., Waimanalo, HI 96795
Launching a niche business in sustainable agriculture using new technology and urban real estate.
• Invest in research and development, guard your intellectual property to stay competitive
and viable, and continually educate people on the concept.
• Be selective with partners and collaborators by choosing like-minded individuals or
companies with similar goals and visions of sustainability to add credibility to the product.
• Customize your “pitch” to building operators and owners with tailor-made agreements
that promote mutual benefits either through profit-sharing or rental fees.
By Tannya Joaquin
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow)- Think of Kakaako and you’re probably thinking high rises, not farms, but Kamehameha Schools sees rooftop farms as the future
One such “ground breaking” new farm called FarmRoof is part of the changing face of Kakaako.
It’s on top of Automart USA, the car dealership right across from Honolulu Harbor. It’s a fitting backdrop for the farm since up to 90 percent of our food has to be shipped in. The hope is that by growing food on more rooftops, we can have more homegrown food, literally.
After a prayer and blessing by Kawaiahao Kahu Curt Kekuna, Mayor Peter Carlisle and FarmRoof Founder Alan Joaquin untied the maile lei, rolled out the modules, and planted the first seeds.
“We have close to an acre of modules that will cover entire rooftop and the buildings down below” said Joaquin. ” Everyone below and tourists flying above will be looking at green patches of healthy, nutritious food.”
In a few weeks, the greens grown overhead will go to chefs, retailers or members who sign up for CSA’s or community supported agriculture.
It’s the world’s first certified organic rooftop farming system, and according to Christian O’Connor, Senior Assets Manager for Kamehameha Schools, it’s part of the master plan for Kakaako. O’Connor says, “We think the vision of greening this entire place is definitely something that can happen in maybe 10-20 years.”
Automart hopes to shave 20 percent from its 12-thousand dollar a month power bill because of the benefits of a green roof.
Mayor Carlisle sees the possibilities, saying “This is something that’s exciting to me because it could reduce energy costs, create energy and it could create food.”
At a time when Hawaii’s struggling with high prices, supporters see no reason why the islands should not be a hub for sustainable urban agriculture.
To learn more, visit farmroof.com
The top of a building in Kakaako is now a garden that is expected to produce greens and save energy
Tufts of salad greens will soon be sprouting from a Kakaako rooftop garden as part of a project that supporters hope will help launch a wave of urban farming in Honolulu.
The vegetable patch, the first phase of which was unveiled Wednesday on the 38,000-square-foot roof of Auto Mart USA, will eventually supply the community, retailers and local chefs with an assortment of kale, arugula and mustard greens.
The project’s supporters hope the concept will spread throughout urban Honolulu and help Hawaii take another step toward food self-sufficiency.
Waimanalo-based FarmRoof, founded in 2008 by local entrepreneur Alan Joaquin, will operate the certified organic garden using proprietary technology. FarmRoof is leasing the rooftop space from Auto Mart USA. Kamehameha Schools, which owns the Kakaako parcel, brokered the deal.
Joaquin developed the technology and materials used in the rooftop system at the company’s Waimanalo headquarters. The company planted its first commercial rooftop garden last year, a 600-square-foot plot atop the Sweet Home Waimanalo restaurant. FarmRoof signed a deal in November to sell its greens at Whole Foods stores on Oahu and Maui.
The first crop from the Auto Mart site is expected to be ready for harvest in about a month. The public can sign up at www.farmroof.com to receive delivery of the company’s greens.
“Today we are planting the seeds of a new Hawaii,” Joaquin said at a dedication ceremony for the garden. “We approached Kamehameha Schools because we knew they were redeveloping Kakaako and they wanted to be more sustainable and they wanted to support urban agriculture,” he said.
Kamehameha Schools is considering expanding the rooftop garden concept to some of its other buildings with suitable roofs in the Kakaako area, said Christian O’Connor, senior asset manager for Kamehameha Schools.
“We’re working with the community to create a vibrant environment in Kakaako,” O’Connor said. “The concept of farm to table is right on the money for us because of the vast agricultural lands we have. This takes agriculture and integrates it into a vertical format.”
FarmRoof follows the principles of community supported agriculture, a national movement that has developed over the past two decades as a way for consumers to buy local food directly from farmers.
FarmRoof’s growing system features a series of mesh tubes, or “modules,” containing nutrient-rich soil in which vegetable seeds are planted. The modules, each 11 feet long, are laid out on pads to ensure the soil does not make contact with the roof, Joaquin said.
The plants are watered with an irrigation system developed by FarmRoof that uses 90 percent less water than conventional farming.
Salad greens are harvested every two weeks, and the nutrients in the soil are replenished after each harvest, according to Joaquin. After 6 months to a year, the entire modules are replaced. The soil from the old modules is recycled and used to create new modules.
The Auto Mart project also is expected to save energy. Because rooftop farms absorb solar radiation and cool the host building, Auto Mart is expected to reduce its air-conditioning use by 20 percent, Joaquin said.
Read the Actual News Article HERE
Would you like a side order of food with your car?
It’s a solar energy rooftop installation, except with this kind, you eat the energy.
That’s because the energy goes into food growing on the roof of Auto Mart USA. On Tuesday, work starts to create a 38,000 square-foot organic farm there, at 604 Ala Moana Blvd., former location of CompUSA.
The project is a collaboration of landlord Kamehameha Schools and FarmRoof, a Waimanalo-based company founded three years ago by Alan Joaquin.
The design is a variant of the urban roof gardens familiar in many large cities. A lot of Hawaii buildings would adapt well to this, the company reports on its website (farmroof.com).
For Auto Mart: The farm uses the heat and keeps it from reaching into the store, which means lower energy bills; let’s see what sprouts.