By Nina Wu
Want to order up some Kakaako-grown, organic kale and arugula? You may be able to do so soon from the expansivee rooftop at Auto Mart USA (the former CompUSA building) at 604 Ala Moana Blvd.
Eating local has taken on a new dimension.
FarmRoof, a Waimanalo-based company founded by Alan Joaquin, installed the first phase of the urban farm this morning on Auto Mart's rooftop. Eventually, it will measure 38,000 square feet, or close to an acre.
Among the greens to be planted are organic heirloom kale, arugula and mustard greens.
Harvest-time is expected in as little as three weeks.
The farm plans to supply the community, local retailers and chefs with an assortment of crops. You can sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription at www.FarmRoof.com. The first delivery (by bike) is anticipated on Feb. 3, 2012.
With Kahu Curt Kekuna's blessing, the long rows of soil-containing mesh sacks were unfurled, a small hole was broken at the top, and the first few seeds of kale were planted with a sprinkling of water.
These sacks contain ultra lightweight soil, according to Joaquin, and are infused with more than 70 minerals, trace elements, micro-nutrients and indigenous microorganisms. FarmRoof's greens are certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The system, he says, offers a 10 to 1 production gain over a conventional farm, uses 90 percent less water and can be powered by a single 9-volt battery. If there's not enough rain, there's an internal irrigation system that waters the greens.
"What we're trying to do is start a revolution," said Joaquin, who pointed to the nearby port which he said ships in 85 to 90 percent of our food at an average distance of 4,500 miles. "We're trying to take that wasted roof space and turn it into healthy food. If even 25 percent of the available flat rooftops in Kakaako, Honolulu and Waikiki had FarmRoofs installed, we could grow enough loose leaf lettuce to feed every man, woman and child in Hawaii, with Zero Food Miles"
There are rooftop farms in the urban core of cities like Chicago and New York.
A 600-square-foot rooftop farm already exists atop Sweet Home Waimanalo. There's also a small, rooftop garden at the office of Philip White Architects at 40 S. School St., which was installed in 2010. FarmRoof Super Greens became available at Whole Foods Market in November 2011.
FarmRoof is subleasing the space from Auto Mart USA as part of a deal brokered by landowner Kamehameha Schools. A rooftop farm is also expected to be installed on a housing complex at 680 Ala Moana Blvd.