Yusuf Abdul-Qadir has been a believer in Plantagon for about two years. After hearing a presentation, then visiting the company in Sweden, the Syracuse green consultant became an ambassador and joined Plantagon’s non-profit association.
Abdul-Qadir likes Plantagon’s vision of building vertical greenhouses as energy-efficient ways to grow food. He’s even more taken with its business philosophy. Plantagon is a hybrid profit and non-profit business. Members of the non-profit association (More than 300 so far) own 10 percent of the business and choose half the members of the corporate board.
“That’s the Haudenosaunee principle,” Abdul-Qadir said. “You need to be more inclusive.”
Abdul-Qadir was among about 50 people who listened Monday morning to Oren Lyons, Onondaga Nation faithkeeper and chairman of Plantagon’s board, and members of the Plantagon staff discuss the potential of building a Plantagon vertical greenhouse in Syracuse. The talk was sponsored by FOCUS Greater Syracuse.
The Onondaga Nation is part owner of the Linköping, Sweden-based company.
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It would cost $40 to $50 million to build a vertical greenhouse in Syracuse, said Hans Hassle, Plantagon founder and CEO. The company says a 17-story building in Syracuse would combine real estate with a greenhouse and be modeled on one in the very early stages in Sweden. Because of the lack of sun here and in Sweden, the greenhouses would use LED lights.
The company is founded on the idea that business should not just make a profit, but help the common good, Hassle said. He also believes most businesses are too short-sighted to understand the need to address long-term needs caused by climate change.
“How can you build a sustainable future by focusing on the next quarter,” he said. “It’s impossible,” he said.
Vertical gardening addresses the need to produce more food efficiently and inexpensively as the population swells. Plantagon’s design, which has won awards, attempts to grow food in a small footprint and without adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
Plantagon has greenhouse projects underway in Singapore and Shangai.
There’s no site chosen for Syracuse, but Lyons would like to see a greenhouse on the northwest end of Onondaga Lake, where the Haudenosaunee principle of peace was born. The Onondaga elder would also like the site to include a heritage center to educate people about Native American culture and their principles of sustainability, equity and peace.
The group met last week with representatives from CenterState CEO and with the county executive. No city or county officials were at Monday’s event, but the audience included representatives of Pyramid Brokerage, QPK Architects and Eric Mower.
The company has not yet done feasibility studies for a project here. Nor have they formally approached economic partners. But they say Syracuse’s interest in local farming and green infrastructure makes the city ripe for a vertical greenhouse.
Plantagon aims to create sustainable food production, but more important, it’s a business with a heart, said Shrikant Ramakrishnan, global business development officer.
“It works more toward a holistic understanding of what we want to do in our value system,” he said.
Words of Wisdom
“Peace is our mandate, and the relationship we have with the Earth. … We’re old. Our confederacy is 1,000 years old. It’s based on peace, it’s based on equity, it’s based on unity. That’s what inspired your people to make a nation here.
“The Peacemaker told us way back when, when you are making decisions, think not of yourself. Make your decisions on the good of the generations coming.
“…Change has to happen if we’re going to survive. It’s no longer competition. It’s cooperation. We’re now in global warming. We have affected the system of the Earth, and you can’t fix a system.
“Plantagon is going to change agriculture around the world.”
Renée K. Gadoua is a freelance writer and editor based in Manlius. Follow her on Twitter @ReneeKGadoua.