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2012 SmallBiz Success Awards

18 Hawaii small businesses are finalists for Hawaii Business magazine's SmallBiz Success Awards

(page 4 of 8)

Founder and president Alan Joaquin thinks the FarmRoof
urban agriculture system can be replicated in other parts
of the world.
Photo: David Croxford

Innovation Winner:

A tour around FarmRoof University, the testing ground for a new and innovative farming system, is a rich lesson in the possibilities for urban agriculture. A concrete slab that imitates a roof is covered in long, mesh tubes filled with a proprietary blend of soil and bursting with greens. They are not just any greens, but nutritionally dense foods like heirloom kale and various Asian lettuces.

FarmRoof got its roots after Alan Joaquin, president and founder, happened upon a study that concluded that rooftops could be used for growing food crops if the weight could be distributed properly. “I thought to myself, if the biggest challenge is weight, I can address this,” says Joaquin.

A walking encyclopedia of agricultural knowledge, Joaquin began his career as a young landscaper and built his first hydro-mulcher at the age of 17. He has combined his formal background in aeronautics with a knack for tinkering in order to engineer agricultural innovations and systems ever since. The FarmRoof system utilizes some of his previous designs combined with new technology to create a rooftop solution to a growing demand for feasible and affordable space to grow crops. While food is the primary goal, other benefits to rooftop farming include better insulation (which saves energy), more water catchment and a prettier space.

Joaquin says the crops grown on rooftops are harvested and sold, primarily through Whole Foods, where they frequently sell out, and FarmRoof’s community-supported agriculture subscriptions. In fact, FarmRoof provides delivery to businesses and organizations that promote the CSA subscriptions.

Teresa Davis, the life-balance coordinator at American Savings Bank, says the bank subscribes to the CSA and promotes the service as part of its wellness program for employees.

“It’s delivered to our doorstep and it’s less expensive than going to the grocery store,” she says. “FarmRoof bends over backwards to provide great customer service for us. They’ve been really easy to work with and have an outstanding product.”

Joaquin envisions a better way for cities to use urban space and become more self-reliant by producing some of their own food needs. “What we’re doing now is proving a model that could be replicated in other parts of the world,” says Joaquin. “We’re creating a turn-key, sustainable business that focuses on a triple bottom line of people, the environment and the economy.”

- Tara Zirker

To learn about the CSA, go to the website and click on “Join Our CSA”

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