City Council introduced resolutions Thursday calling for the expansion of vertical and urban farming in Philadelphia.
Vertical farms use artificial lighting and climate control to grow vegetables, herbs, and fruits year-round without sunlight or soil.
"Vertical gardens have been around since the gardens of Babylon," said Jack Griffin, cofounder of Metropolis Farms, the city's first indoor vertical farm, located in a South Philadelphia warehouse. "It's nothing new. It's fourth-grade math and fourth-grade geometry - there's nothing here that's not accessible."
But learning such a specific business and how to make it profitable can be difficult. Councilman Al Taubenberger said he introduced the resolution in an effort to drum up conversation and interest in the industry.
"The most noble thing a human being can do is produce food for others," Taubenberger said at a news conference, complete with a display of basil and micro-greens grown at Metropolis. "Vertical farming is something very special indeed, and fits like a glove in Philadelphia."
The resolution calls for hearings that will be scheduled in the coming weeks.
"The opportunity is there. The buildings are there, and people looking for jobs are there," said Taubenberger, who has an agriculture degree from Pennsylvania State University.
Griffin envisions a vertical farm school and network of "flash farms," to provide produce directly to neighborhoods, grocery stores, and restaurants.
An acre of farmland - 43,560 square feet - yields the same amount as 36 square feet in a vertical garden, Griffin said.
The growth process takes about half the time of a traditional farm, occupies less space, and uses less water and electricity.
A second resolution calls for expanding urban farming. The city already has several urban farms, which cultivate produce for local communities, in East Kensington, North Philadelphia, West Philadelphia, and Germantown.
In other business Thursday, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown introduced a bill to require the city to use of LED energy-efficient lighting with every major renovation or public construction project.
Recently, the city replaced all 85,500 traffic signals with LED bulbs, saving more than $1 million annually, Reynolds Brown said.
Councilwoman Cindy Bass introduced a bill to help contractors get paid on time. The bill requires contractors doing work on city projects to pay subcontractors within three days of completion of the project or submission of an invoice.
The bill allows a third party such as the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. to directly pay subcontractors to alleviate delays.