Synergistic food production space

Plant Chicago

The Plant (US Cluster) Synergistic food production space

At a Glance

  • Operates in a former meat-packing plant
  • Connects 16 food production businesses
  • Unique for-profit/non-profit partnership
  • Established in 2010
  • Located in Chicago
The Plant Image 1

Background

Today’s food supply chains are typically operating in silos which makes it difficult to utilise by-products and results in economic losses. A significant proportion of food that is produced is also lost as waste. In fact, around one third of the food calories produced worldwide is wasted. In the United States, it is estimated that food waste constitutes up to 20% of landfill materials by volume.

Food System Innovation

The Plant is a collaborative community of food production businesses - all striving to find synergies between each other. The facility and community is a collaboration between the for-profit owner/developer Bubbly Dynamics, the educational non-profit Plant Chicago, and the dynamic community of food businesses co-located together in the 93,500 square foot facility. A 2015 study estimated that each month the businesses in The Plant produce around 18,000 kg of materials, 40% of which were finished products and 60% byproducts. A material flow analysis over a three-month period found that 42% of the output materials from businesses were captured on site (mostly in the form of brewer’s grain). The Plant community is currently working on a system which allows them to repurpose and capture more value from byproducts – e.g. spent grain from the brewery is used as growing medium for mushrooms (see image below for more details). The Plant will soon be collecting food waste from nearby industries to feed into their anaerobic digester, which produces biogas that is used on-site.

An illustration of a 2016 material flow analysis between co-located businesses at The Plant.  Chance, E., Ashton, W., Pereira, J., Mulrow, J., Norberto, J., Derrible, S. and Guilbert, S. (2017), The Plant—An experiment in urban food sustainability. Environ. Prog. Sustainable Energy. doi:10.1002/ep.12712
An illustration of a 2016 material flow analysis between co-located businesses at The Plant. Chance, E., Ashton, W., Pereira, J., Mulrow, J., Norberto, J., Derrible, S. and Guilbert, S. (2017), The Plant—An experiment in urban food sustainability. Environ. Prog. Sustainable Energy. doi:10.1002/ep.12712

Benefits & Opportunities

  • The products are a hyper-local source of vegetables, honey, and bread for nearby restaurants and the surrounding neighbourhood.
  • Co-location of small food businesses facilitates collaboration and material flows.
  • By sharing outputs as inputs, businesses in The Plant can increase their bottom line.
  • The existence of a non-profit on-site creates unique for profit/non-profit partnerships.
  • In 2016 alone, 3000 student visitors learnt about regenerative systems.
  • The digester project will divert over 10,000 tons of food waste from landfills each year, while reducing the demand for natural gas.

Website: plantchicago.org

References: Youtube, Green Biz, The Plant Learnings

Source: IA September 2017