The Plant—An experiment in urban food sustainability

Indoor farming and food production systems present a unique opportunity for altering the sustainability of the urban food landscape through innovations in food, energy, and water (FEW) flows. Compared to traditional farming, growing indoors has been shown to be significantly more efficient with water usage and can reduce the amount of organic waste in runoff. However, indoor farming requires large amounts of energy for lighting and climate control, which can in turn exacerbate environmental impacts. Many experiments in indoor farming are taking place in cities across the world. This article presents a case study of The Plant, a renovated former meat‐packing facility in Chicago's South Side, which is being repurposed into a collaborative community of food businesses committed to reducing waste. We utilize a Material Flow Analysis (MFA) framework to gather and analyze the FEW flows, but we also illustrate the social impacts, which are important as part of the broader sustainability impacts of the facility. Furthermore, we discuss the challenges in assessing the flow of FEW resources in experimental facilities such as The Plant, and we emphasize the need for ongoing study of such systems in order to determine a path towards sustainable management of food, energy, water, and waste in cities.