The idea behind Mattingly’s project is to bring foraging to the concrete jungle, where very little fresh produce is grown locally. Mostly, fresh fruits and vegetables are imported and thus expensive. There’s definitely a market for local food: New York City alone is estimated to have over $600 million worth of unmet annual demand for local food. Swale produces about 400 pounds of food per season, Mattingly says — not enough to satisfy even one person’s fruit and veggie intake in one year. So floating barges are unlikely to meet the local food demands on their own — you’d need an armada — but that’s not Swale’s goal. “We don’t see this as a solution,” says Lindsey Grothkopp, who handles external affairs for Swale. “As an art project, it’s here to just propose new models and new ideas.”
Swale is completely powered by solar panels, and it recycles its own water thanks to a system of pumps and sand filters. It also collects rainwater, and it can desalinate and purify the brackish river water if need be. The barge adds arable land in a dense urban area where land is scarce, and it can float from neighborhood to neighborhood — serving different communities from month to month. Last year, Swale was docked in the Bronx, on Governor’s Island, and then Brooklyn from May to October. (In the winter, it was stored upstate.)
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