OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Enabling Soilless Farms to Produce Soil Quality Produce Using Minimal Resources

Producing decentralized, closed-loop soilless farming, yielding 13X more food and using 2x less fertilizer and 95% less water.

Photo of DeletedUser
3 6

Written by DeletedUser

Lead Applicant Organization Name


Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.


Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

New York, NY (New York City) is our headquarters and we have a manufacturing facility in Rochester, NY

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States of America

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

New York, a state in the United States, representing a total area of 54,556 mi^2 and responsible for 33,438 farms covering 6,866,171 acres.

What country is your selected Place located in?

United States of America

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Headquartered in NYC but with our manufacturing facility located in Rochester, NY, Re-Nuble is committed to New York state as our initial place of impact because it is a leading agricultural state, worth $5.75 billion in revenue but a state in which much of that wealth is still largely concentrated in disparate locations.  It is our goal to make soilless farming more economically viable in order to enhance local and sustainable farming throughout New York, using land, resources, and space more efficiently while producing a more cost-effective supply of healthier organic foods for residents.

Additionally, New York is aggressive on food waste diversion. Spending $36 million per year solely on the transport and disposal of excess food, New York has mandated a statewide ban (e.g. Food Recovery and Recycling Act). Effective earlier this year, any establishment that generates more than two tons of food waste per week must separate material for donation and arrange for inedible scraps to be taken to an organics recycler within 25 miles. With NYC, a metropolitan area with New York City’s 38,242 people per square kilometer, sending 1.3 million tons of food waste to landfills a year, Re-Nuble intends to help eliminate emissions from hauling this waste stream and in turn, produce valuable fertilizers that enable NYC to 'close the loop' between food consumption and production.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Anyone that is affected by climate change, environmentally-conscious organizations, weather-dependent industries, the city, and state government will receive a direct benefit to our impact. Just one of our facilities can achieve 10% of NY State's 2030 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction goal by itself. Re-Nuble has a substantial opportunity to helping NYC meet is 2030 zero-waste goal.

The South Bronx has suffered from high amounts of air pollution so much that Mott Haven has been recognized as Asthma Alley according to an article published by The Guardian in April 2019. "Residents inhale the emissions of the hundreds of daily trucks going in and out of the nearby Fresh Direct warehouse, and exhaust emitted by constant traffic on the four nearby highways, as well as from the printing presses of the Wall Street Journal, a parcel depot, and sewage works not far away. They need asthma hospitalizations at  five times the national average and at rates 21 times higher than other NYC neighborhoods." Re-Nuble's cost-effective, distributed model to process food waste located in Hunts Point can largely reduce this adverse impact and will be of high interest to state and city officials for doing so.

Soilless farmers, current or aspiring, because we enable them to sell organic produce at a fraction of the cost of conventional produce. They receive the greater margins of organic food, without any of the additional cost. Soilless farming is very well suited to serving urban food systems.

Consumers of organic foods because they are increasingly conscientious of their health and its relationships to the source of their foods. Our foods have the potential to prove to be more nutritionally dense, organic foods cultivated from a 'closed-loop' between production and consumption instead of factory farming and agribusiness.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)


What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Access to fresh, healthy, affordable food in urban centers is currently limited by the physical distances between producers and consumers. These distances generate increased logistics costs which are ultimately assumed by the consumers. In the future, as farmland becomes more scarce and less viable due to environmental change, there will be a necessity to move farms closer to urban populations in order to close the gaps in food quality and accessibility.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Food waste sent to landfills has nearly the same greenhouse gas e ect as electricity generation.NYC is sending 1.3 million tons of food waste to land lls a year, producing enormous greenhouse gases that make the climate emergency worse for the city's residents and beyond. As a low-lying city, rising global temperatures and rising sea levels could have a devastating effect on NYC.

Our project receives diverted organic food waste unable to be affordably and reliably diverted to a food bank or farm, and converts it into a pelletized fertilizer, achieving a closed-loop between food waste and food production.  To extend our impact more heavily throughout New York state, we would colocate our second facility in Hunts Point Food Distribution Center (FDC) or within a 2-mile proximity, to enable serving FDC and a $25 million 2020 expansion called the NYS Greenmarket Regional Food Hub (GRF). Our project is consistent with the NYC Solid Waste Management Plan component that addresses the incorporation of pilot projects with new and emerging waste management technologies. It is also consistent with NYC’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability’sPlanNYC and NYC Economic Development Council’s comprehensive plan called, “A Stronger, More Resilient New York”. The need for our project is evidenced by the following:

  • Provides sustainable waste management that is advantageous compared to composting and anaerobic digestion for the organic fraction of the waste stream at Hunts Point,
  • There is an estimated minimum of 60,000 tons of organic-rich waste generated at FDC each year that is suitable for diversion by our project,
  • A substantial proportion of the carbon in the biomass can be converted into renewable, closed-loop fertilizers for agriculture use,
  • Our method would significantly reduce NYC’s greenhouse gases and dependence on collection trucks from garages in 59 separate sanitation districts and over 30 transfer stations. Trailers and rail cars transport to disposal sites as far afield as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and South Carolina[1]., and 
  • Our project is capable of successfully diverting a minimum of 166,462 tons of organic waste and producing a minimum of 112,929 tons of premium fertilizer product per year from increasingly limited landfill locations.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

In five years, NYC will have sequestered tens of thousands of tons of carbon, helping clean up our atmosphere. It will be selling Re-Nuble branded organic foods labeled 'closed-loop organic', a consumer certification that shows this produce respected the way our planet's ecosystem always meant for food to be grown; where nothing is sent to a land ll, where food scraps would go back to farming systems and foster new food to be grown. This means that Re-Nuble branded farms using Re-Nuble branded agricultural inputs manufactured from upcycled and localized organic waste stream will be accountable to their nutrient density and zero to minimal carbon footprint claims with the intention to help Re-Nuble's farm ecosystem deliver to the market fresh and nutrient-dense produce at a price point that everyone can afford.

Because of our public commitment to reinvest a percentage of our profits to non-profit, educators and community gardens, we intend to partner with non-profits such as NY Sunworks and Teens Food For Justice to build educational programs at local schools that visit and understand how the closed-loop system works between food waste, our production facilities, and local soilless farms. It is our hope that students become inspired by this approach to build the new technologies and businesses that further the goal of reversing climate change and building a more sustainable future.

Our team at Re-Nuble intends to build a food waste science facility to house all of our research and development in NYC, to act as a global beacon for the utilization of food waste as a valuable resource rather than a burden to our ecology. Our annual gatherings of stakeholders and thought leaders in NYC will help inspire change around the world and our thought leadership and influence with grassroot and community groups, such as NYC Agriculture Collective, will help drive this.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

In order to cocreate an equitable, open, and conscious food system that takes into consideration all of the inputs and outputs created as a byproduct of the production and consumption of food, by 2050 Re-Nuble will have catalyzed closed-loop farming in at least 5 global cities. Pivotal to its success, Re-Nuble’s technology, comprised of several patent-pending components and our pelletized fertilizer, will have scaled its novelty in providing organic nutrient cycling for resource-light demanding soilless farms. By rapidly breaking down solid plant waste sourced from the local waste streams of urban cities around the world, Re-Nuble's cost-effective growing method can be integrated into both a soil and soilless farm’s existing fertilizer system thereby making it easier to implement in all farm types and for all crops and budgets. The benefit to the plants are a highly diverse source of plant growth promoters that lead to nutrient enhancing properties of the produce grown with it. As a result, enabling more consumers to have better health and economic outcomes.

When successfully brought to the market of other resource-scarce cities, Re-Nuble's technology will have helped sequester tens of thousands of tons of carbon, cleaning up our atmosphere. It will be enabling more soilless farms to sell organic certified produce labeled 'closed-loop organic', a Re-Nuble certification indicating that this produce was grown with a substantially lower carbon footprint than our traditional fertilizer supply chain.

Five fully operational facilities running at-scale in five uniquely different cities, challenged by natural resource scarcity exacerbated by poverty and increased temperatures due to climate change, our fertilizer manufacturing facilities will each be able to:

- Reduce two tons of greenhouse gases for every five tons of food waste processed;
- Remove 3,700 cars' worth of greenhouse gas emissions;
- Divert 42,000 tons of food waste from landfills and combustion annually;
- Reduce 17,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually because of its food waste diversion.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Email
  • Prize partners
  • Twitter


Join the conversation:

Photo of Vicent ST

Hello there? Do you think your community should be eating food grown with fewer
chemical pesticides, fertilizers, etc? These choices will also have consequences for the environment?

View all comments