The Philadelphia Zoo is running a farm inside a converted shipping container

2020-03-04

If you’re a fan of homegrown arugula and mustard greens, you just may have the same taste as Tua, a 27-year-old Sumatran orangutan. Tua lives at the Philadelphia Zoo, the first zoo in the country with its own on-site vertical garden used to grow leafy greens for its animals. And she loves the produce they’re feeding her. The garden is located in a retrofitted shipping container in the Urban Green, the zoo’s open-air food marketplace. A mural, by Philly-based environmental artist and activist Eurhi Jones, transforms the front of the shipping container into a colorful collage of the animals who’ll chow down on the vegetation. But the real beauty is inside, where stacked, tidy shelves hold rows of plants that are grown hydroponically, in nutrient-rich water instead of soil. LED lights, a substitute for sunlight, shine 18 hours a day. Farm operators use a mobile app to remotely control the container’s light, temperature, and humidity levels. Kristen Lewis-Waldron, director of strategic initiatives at the zoo, said the vertical farm is far more sustainable than bringing in food from outside sources. It uses 70% to 90% less water than traditional farming, has no need for pesticides or herbicides, and cuts greenhouse gas emissions out of the equation, since no motor-powered transportation is necessary to get the food to the zoo. “It really kind of creates this farm-to-table [model] — in this case, shipping container-to-exhibit,” she said of the project, which is in a pilot phase.

inquirer.com, 4 March 2020
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