Plant Chicago has a message for the natural foods industry: zero waste is possible. The nonprofit established five years ago has been working to develop circular economies of food production, energy conservation and material reuse—meaning a conventional waste stream from one process is repurposed as an input for another. To demonstrate this concept in action, its food production space in Chicago is designed to be a net-zero, closed loop system. And next month, the facility will be offering tours during an Internet of Things (IoT) event. IoT Emerge will target the opportunities and challenges posed by IoT devices, platforms and services, and offer tours of four local companies to see IoT applications in real-world scenarios.
More than a dozen small food businesses, including a bakery, brewery and mushroom farm, operate at Plant Chicago’s The Plant, which expects to eventually divert more than 10,000 tons of food waste from landfills annually—and in the process, provide enough electricity to power at least 250 homes. Tours of The Plant allow visitors to see food production at these small businesses as well as the demonstration projects that help maintain the closed-loop system, including an aquaponics farm and algae bioreactor.
Kassandra Hinrichsen, Plant Chicago’s education and outreach manager, said the organization’s farmers market aims to boost food access in underserved areas. “We are looking to provide healthy, affordable, locally grown food to folks in the Back of the Yards neighborhood and beyond. We are able to make these foods accessible through accepting the [SNAP, or food stamps] card and doubling its value up to $25,” she said.
Through its demonstrations within the building, the organization also hopes to inspire and empower people of other businesses to consider the potential of their waste materials. "In the future, we plan on partnering with other businesses to assist in research for their companies to reduce and reuse their waste," Hinrichsen said.
Braughnwynn "Bibi" Jackson, IoT Emerge event and marketing director, said, "Our mission is to offer practical IoT education and insights, with an emphasis on Industrial IoT. These on-site visits, including lunch and learns, will allow event participants to see and hear the challenges and opportunities Internet of Things offers to companies in business today.”
IoT Emerge is produced by IoT Institute, a New Hope Network sister company.
When: Nov. 2-4, 2016
Where: McCormick Place, Chicago