When we talk about efforts to infuse more green, open space into dense urban areas, craft beer never enters the conversation. Unless members of the conversation are reaching for one to grease the wheels of innovation.
A new start-up out of Brooklyn, N.Y., is out to prove that one has more to do with the other than we may think. Caleb Freese and Julian Hensarling, founders of Thousands Win, plan to increase green space and brew a “farm-to-bottle” beer all in the same entrepreneurial endeavor. The pair have developed a super-lightweight green roof system that will facilitate the farming of hops, a key ingredient in beer, on Brooklyn rooftops.
When they learned that there are approximately 20,000 acres, or the equivalent of 26 Central Park’s worth, of unused rooftop space in New York City, Freese and Hensarling knew they had to seize the opportunity. For two years, they’ve worked to develop and test new farming systems for hops. At last, it’s time to sample the fruits of their labor.
“We’ve designed a rooftop farm without putting soil on the roof or the need for watering,” said Freese in a statement. “By using rainwater collection systems and growing suspending vines, their roofs are ⅓ the weight of a traditional rooftop farm.”
“You get all the benefits of a green roof…in addition you’re going to get a product out of the green roof,” says Artie Rollins, the green roof specialist at NYC Parks Department.
Planting grasses, shrubs and edible plants on rooftops has been shown to improve air quality, capture carbon, reduce storm water runoff and help reduce energy consumption by keeping buildings cool. Rooftop farms also create wildlife habitats and opportunities for education on environmental issues, and increase public access to green space.
Since New York City can benefit from all of the above, it’s no surprise that former Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a massive green roof initiative in 2010. As a result, the Empire State Building now sports 9,100 sq. feet of green roof space, while a green roof helped Brooklyn’s Botanic Garden achieve LEED Gold.
To realize their dream of becoming NYC’s first farm brewery, Freese and Hensarling are launching a fundraising campaign on February 17 through Indiegogo, a popular crowd-funding site. If successful, their new business will be proof that New York’s recent efforts to support small to mid-size businesses is working.
In 2013, New York Governor Cuomo passed a Farm Brewery Law that builds incentive for local agriculture and local NY state products. An even newer incentive, called Start-Up NY, created tax-free zones across the state for new and expanding businesses. Businesses that choose to open or expand in New York can now operate 100 percent tax-free for 10 years.
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