Growing Greens and Good Deeds in the Middle of a City [Q&A]

Viraj Puri is the CEO and co-founder of Gotham Greens and – an urban farmer.

Oct 1, 2015
CEO of Gotham Greens Viraj Puri

CEO and Co-Founder of Gotham Greens, Viraj Puri

October 1, 2015 is World Vegetarian Day and a celebration of all things green and grown in the ground – and apparently on rooftops, too. Gotham Greens is an urban agricultural company that’s building greenhouses on rooftops in cities like New York and Chicago. The company uses eco-conscious technologies to grow their pesticide-free produce, which is then sold in local supermarkets and to restaurants. In this week’s 10 Good Questions, CEO Viraj Puri explains how technology, sustainability, and affordability meet to transform a food desert to a veggie oasis.

1. What is your organization’s mission?

Gotham Greens was founded in 2009 with the goal of advancing urban agriculture. We had a vision for a local, ecologically driven, urban farm that could offer city dwellers the freshest and highest quality culinary ingredients, year-round, at competitive prices. It was inspired by innovation and technology, driven by a sense of duty to address ecological issues facing our agricultural system, and motivated by a farmer’s penchant for challenge. Gotham Greens built its flagship greenhouse - the first commercial scale rooftop greenhouse in the United States - in 2011. Now five years later, we have four urban greenhouse facilities across New York City and Chicago and are a thriving regional, year-round producer of local greens.

Gotham Greesn greenhouse and city skyline

Gotham Greens Greenhouses are a green paradise above a concrete metropolis

2. What makes you guys different from the rest?

Our products are harvested before breakfast so they can be on your plate by lunch. And we can do that reliably and consistently all year round, 365 days of the year. We don’t just blindly talk about being “local,” “sustainable” and “natural.” We care about what those things stand for: flavor and nutrition, preserving water and soil resources, biodiversity, reducing harmful chemical use in food production, fair treatment of workers, and spending our dollars closer to home.

We’re the only urban agricultural company with greenhouse facilities operating on a commercial scale across multiple cities. Growing fresh produce in urban rooftop greenhouse enables us to harvest daily and deliver directly to supermarkets and restaurants, within hours of picking the veggies. This drastically reduces food waste, eliminates the need for long distance trucking and gives customers a fresher and more nutritious product. Our farms are unconventional. And so is our commitment to quality, taste and sustainability.

3. Offices or open work spaces?

Each of our greenhouse facilities has an open floor plan of offices built into them.

4. What three words describe your organization?

Urban. Innovative. Meticulous.

5. What inspires you?

We’re inspired by the growing local and sustainable food and agricultural movement and love seeing what chefs and customers make with our produce.

6. What is the best part about your job?

Since our team is spread between four greenhouses, I spend a lot of time on the phone and it’s awesome to be able to do that while walking around the lush greenhouse. It’s especially lux during the winter months when the city is frozen under a blanket of snow and I’m strolling through a green paradise.

7. Does your team eat lunch together?

Yes, farmers are incredibly punctual, especially when it comes to lunchtime! We break every day at noon and have picnic tables on our rooftops where we can all hang out and take in the view. We’re also known to throw down some pretty competitive cornhole games.

Gotham Greens team plays cornhole

Lunch wouldn't be complete without a Gotham Greens cornhole competition 

8. Facebook or twitter?

Yup, we’re on both Facebook and Twitter.

9. What do you want Goodnet users to know about your organization?  

Next month we’re getting ready to harvest our first round of crops from our brand new greenhouses in Chicago and Queens, New York. Goodnet users can find our products in the produce section at most local supermarkets as well as a handful of restaurants in both NY and Chicago. Check out our Facebook and Instagram pages for more pics of our rooftop greenhouses and culinary musings.

10. How can people get involved?  

Buy our products at their local supermarket and support local and sustainable food movements.

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