Planting A Farm Up On The Roof

Alana Folen
Wednesday - June 29, 2011
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Alan Joaquin. Leah Friel photo .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Alan Joaquin is the mastermind behind FarmRoof, a proprietary rooftop farming system that provides social, environmental and economic benefits from soil to sale. As the president and founder, Joaquin has taken the farm-to-table concept from ground to roof. FarmRoof came into fruition in 2008 and over the last two years it has evolved into an ever-expanding business specializing in sustainable rooftop agriculture.

According to Joaquin, rooftop farming is most common in urban areas and promotes small-scale local agriculture.

“A farm roof is a green roof, so it has different layers within it,” Joaquin explains. “The FarmRoof has a waterproof membrane, a protection layer for the roof that’s underneath it, and mulch so that it absorbs storm water, and then of course it has a planting module as well.

“The cool thing about the FarmRoof system is that it’s really light in weight,” he adds. “It can be as light as five pounds per square foot. So what that does is that it allows us to put a farm on virtually any building with a flat roof.”

FarmRoof’s first 600-square-foot commercial-scale farm was recently installed at Sweet Home Waimanalo, a local market/cafe that specializes in serving sustainable food.

“FarmRoof made perfect sense to the owners because it represents everything they stand for: sustainable, fresh, nutritious food,” says Joaquin, who also is a pilot for Hawaiian Airlines. “FarmRoof gives Sweet Home Waimanalo many advantages over its competition as well, and it only took six hours to install. Sweet Home Waimanalo now has a zero food mile environment that really no one in Hawaii has at this time.”

It’s believed that rooftop farms are most economical and efficient when used to grow culinary herbs, gourmet greens and heirloom vegetables. Currently, Sweet Home Waimanalo’s rooftop garden is home to several varieties of red oak leaves, green oak leaves, green leaf lettuces, red leaf lettuces, romaine lettuce, kale, arugula and more.

“What we’re doing here is growing organic gourmet greens and seeing the process from conception to consumption,” Joaquin says. “We’re growing for look, texture, taste and nutritional value - trying to create super foods.

“The organic medium that we use has been supplemented with 70 different minerals, elements, micronutrients, omegas and micro-organisms that help to facilitate the uptake of all these nutrients. We’re trying to grow food that is ultra healthy. We’re farmers who get hired by our customer to start a farm on their roof. We grow everything for them, harvest it and sell to them at an agreed-upon price. We design, build and operate the farm, and work with the business and grow what they choose. It’s a team-oriented approach, and we really have a vested interest in their business.”

For more information on FarmRoof, visit or call 396-9454.


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