Friday, July 30, 2010

Green Sky Growers - Rooftop Aquaponic Gardening

Green Sky Growers

If your in Orlando or surrounding areas and are interested in one of the most amazing greenhouse setups I've ever seen, Green Sky Growers will be glad to give you a tour for a low 10$ fee.

These greenhouses are located in Winter Garden, FL on top of a certified green building. This building is very efficient and is one of the first in the country to be 100% certified green building. During the tour, they dig into the background of this project and how it came to be.

Below is an article I found that explains it all in more detail (Im not the best writer, so ill post this instead):

Atop the new brick building attached to the renovated Garden Theatre downtown is the future of urban farming, as longtime citrus grower Bert Roper sees it.

At the rooftop hydroponic garden, hundreds of gourmet lettuce plants float on foam mats in a tank of nutrient-enriched water, intended to make the red oak leaf and tender bibb lettuces fat and happy.

Long vines of gourmet cucumbers hang like leafy draperies along transparent walls. Bushes of cherry tomatoes sprout from white plastic pillars. Columns of green and purple basil plants tower from floor to ceiling.

Not all in the garden is green. Thousands of small tilapia fry swim in tanks, where the water is filtered clean, in part, by the plants.
At 85, an age when most people would have long since retired, Roper has launched his latest venture — Green Sky Growers garden. A ground-floor market also is in the works.

“I’m retired from citrus, but that doesn’t mean I’m retired,” Roper said.

He has teamed with Tim Blank, 39, a former Epcot hydroponics expert, to make this project commercially viable.

“What’s the biggest challenge facing us in Florida?” Roper asked. “Water. Well, right here, we’re growing food with just 15 percent of the water it would take on a traditional farm. When we perfect it, we’ll be down to 5 percent of the water.”

Blank said that as communities continue to gobble up rural land, sustainable gardens could be built on rooftops, making better use of what he calls wasted space.

Faster, bigger
Green Sky plants are fed a perfectly balanced diet of phosphorous, nitrogen, oxygen and other elements. Roper and Blank say their vegetables grow bigger and faster than traditional crops.

Lettuce usually takes two to four months to grow but here takes 28 days from seedling to market. Chives and other herbs can grow 12 inches in a week. The fish should be ready for market in months instead of two years, as in the wild.

“We’re already selling gourmet produce to local restaurants,” Blank said. On Saturdays, fresh vegetables and herbs are sold at the farmers market.

The pair had originally anticipated having the garden up and running six months ago.

“One of the challenges of our journey was learning how to build a hurricane-resistant greenhouse on top of a roof,” Blank said.

The 3,000-square-foot research and demonstration garden is built to withstand winds up to 120 mph. If such a storm hit, Roper said they would roll up the clear curtains, and the wind would whip through the structure.

“We’d lose our crops, but that would set us back only a few weeks,” he said.

‘See what is possible’
Educating the public about new ways to conserve the environment is also part of their mission. The new building has rain catchers on the roof and a 15,000-gallon cistern buried underground. Most of the water they use comes from the cistern and is re-used after being cleaned.

Schoolchildren have already toured the garden, by special arrangement. Small groups will be allowed to tour this weekend for $10 a person during Winter Garden’s ninth annual Spring Fever in the Garden downtown, sponsored by the city and the Bloom & Grow Garden Society.

“We want people to see what is possible,” Blank said.

Roper, whose family has built a successful citrus and farming empire, said he is not too worried about making money just yet.

“I hope to make a profit by the time I’m 100,” he said.

       By Rich McKay @

I have a couple friends that have worked here and are very experienced.

One word "AMAZING"! And if your in town, give me a shout out - I live only 10 mins away from this place... This is the future of urban growing and I'm very pleased to see that an older generation of growers can see this and know the benefits that this can bring to society!

I'm going to be visiting this place again soon, so I will report back with my own photos that are larger.



  1. Rooftop greenhouses are awesome. This one looks very productive. I would love to have a rooftop greenhouse... that would be so cool! I plan to drop by for a tour if I am ever in Orlando.

  2. I agree. Why waste usable space, when you can grow food on the roof?

    Many supermarkets/grocery stores have enough rooftop space to grow their own produce. One of these days they will see the benefits :)

  3. It is really pretty amazing that they only use 15% of the water a traditional farm uses with a goal of getting down to 5%. What a fascinating way to grow plants...and not just plants but vegetable plants.

  4. If I was to custom build my next House. I would add this as well maybe figure out a way to recycle, rain water. Store it and use it for the plants maybe even the house for cleaning chores or uses like flushing the toilet.

    I love this, thank you for sharing.
    Peace be with you

  5. They also raise fish to feed the plants. This building holds/captures something like 15,000 gallons of rainwater that is used in the aquaponics and throughout the building (I believe).

    Aquaponics is going to be next big project - hopefully sometime this year.