Plant Chicago operates out of The Plant, a former meat packing plant in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood re-purposed into a collaborative community of food producing businesses all committed to materials reuse and closed loop systems. The building was constructed in 1925 and operated by Peer Foods up until 2007. The 93,500 square foot facility sat vacant, destined to be torn down, until Bubbly Dynamics, LLC bought it in 2010. Bubbly’s small staff has been restoring and modifying the hulking brick building to better meet the needs of 21st century urban farming and food production.
When completed, The Plant will be transformed from an energy-intensive pork packing facility into a living laboratory that explores closing waste, energy, and material loops. Waste products and materials from one business will be utilized by another, significantly minimizing or eliminating what ends up in the landfill. Food waste that can’t easily be reused (along with over 10,000 tons per year of food waste from other nearby businesses) will be fed into an anaerobic digester. This machine will create a biogas that can be used to produce both heat for various processes in the building. Several businesses located at The Plant will be helping to power their operations via their own waste!
The Plant currently houses over twenty small food businesses, including farming, baking and brewing. Almost all of them can be found at Plant Chicago’s year-round market. Plant Chicago partners closely with Bubbly Dynamics and tenants of The Plant to close waste loops in the building. Through technology research and holding up The Plant as an example, Plant Chicago and Bubbly Dynamics can show the world a future of closed loop, net-zero urban food production.
Closed Loop diagram of The Plant by Matt Bergstrom