Roots on the rooftop

June 25, 2012 5:45 AM

Ryan Rivet

Downtown New Orleans is not likely the first place that comes to mind when thinking about fresh produce. That may change if you find yourself on the roof of the Rouses Supermarket on Baronne Street, thanks to a partnership with a company that traces its roots back to the Tulane University uptown campus.

Kevin Morgan-Rothschild Rouses

Kevin Morgan-Rothschild checks on the rooftop herb garden in downtown New Orleans. (Photos by Paula Burch-Celentano)

Rouses looked into Aquaponic Modular Production Systems (AMPS), an agriculture development company founded by former Tulane students Doug Jacobs and Kevin Morgan-Rothschild, and determined their technology was the right one to make the concept of an urban farm a reality.

"This is a great fit for Rouses," says Morgan-Rothschild. "The product travels about 50 steps before it reaches the shelves, plus it's an automated system, so they don't have to worry about watering or weeding."

The first of its kind in the United States, the Roots on the Rooftop garden is an aeroponic farm where plants grow out of 59 vertical soilless towers fed by a constant flow of water, air and nutrients, which allow the herbs to grow twice as fast while taking up less space.

"With aeroponics, the roots are suspended in air, which allows more oxygen to reach the roots and that allows for explosive growth," says Morgan-Rothschild.

Aquaponic Modular Production Systems

At the Roots on the Rooftop garden, plants grow out of the vertical soilless towers.

Currently, Rouses is using the towers to grow herbs, including basil, thyme, cilantro and parsley. The store has been producing so much that the chain's Tchoupitoulas Street location has been taking its overflow.

Morgan-Rothschild is quick to credit the resources they received from Tulane and The Idea Village with much of the company's accomplishments. Through programs such as the Tulane NewDay Challenge and The Idea Village's water challenge and accelerator programs, AMPS has gone from concept to viable business in a little more than 18 months.

"We owe a lot of our success to the support the New Orleans social entrepreneurship community has given us," Morgan-Rothschild says.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000