Rooftop farming has seen increasing adoption in major cities across the United States. As a leading manufacturer of green roof media designed specifically for urban agriculture, Naturcycle implemented a research experiment at the Boston Medical Center Rooftop Farm to analyze the effects of these specialty blends across a range of crop cultivation parameters. The research experiment was conducted by Lauren Hall, who is pursuing a Master of Public Health degree from the Boston University School of Public Health, and her report for the first year of the study was recently published.

Urban and rooftop farming has emerged as a sustainable solution to address the growing demand for local and fresh produce in rapidly growing, densely populated areas. A variety of green roof media is commercially available for the development of these urban and rooftop farms and can drastically affect crop cultivation, energy expenditures, water retention, and overall sustainability for urban agricultural practices.

The Boston Medical Center (BMC) Rooftop Farm is a 2,658 square foot farm with more than thirty varieties of crops. The farm not only provides fresh, local produce to the hospitalized patients, cafeterias, Demonstration Kitchen, and Preventive Food Pantry, but is also part of BMC’s commitment to sustainability. The farm reduces storm water runoff, increases green space, and reduces energy use, including the energy required to transport food. The farm was designed and installed by Recover Green Roofs and opened in 2017. Naturcycle LLC is a green roof media manufacturer that operates throughout the Northeast with facilities outside both New York City and Boston. Their team is dedicated to enhancing the environment with local, sustainable materials for landscaping uses, green roof projects, and engineered soil needs.

A collaborative research study is ongoing between the BMC Rooftop Farm and Naturcycle LLC. This project aims to examine the difference in crop cultivation and efficiency across different variations of green roof media. The media included in the study includes 1) a high organic potting soil used as the standard, referred to as “PS,” 2) the urban agriculture blend historically and currently in use at the BMC rooftop garden, referred to as “BMC Blend,” 3) a soilless media blend provided by Naturcycle, referred to as “Naturcycle” or “NC,” and 4) a third-party soilless media which is also in use in some areas of the BMC Rooftop Farm.

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