Sustainable urban farming has a bright future.
Article by: Jason "Pepe"
A new breed of farmer is quickly emerging globally. You can find them working and innovating new ideas in concrete jungles like New York, Berlin Germany and so many other cities around the globe.
The time to move ahead with urban farming has never been better.
With ever increasing world populations, the demand for food will obviously increase. Estimates project that by 2050 about 2/3 of the people will reside in cities. Cities utilize 70% of the world’s energy needs. The urban farmer is positioned in the right place at the right time to meet the challenge of this population shift.
Traditional, well let’s say conventional methods of farming utilize large tracks of land, heavy equipment, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, genetically engineered crops, herbicides and more. Transporting foods by truck thousands of miles also burns fossil fuels, increases production cost and the prices at the market.
Keep in mind how all these factors contribute to environmental damage. Besides the environmental damage many agree the crops are not even safe to eat.
A tremendous amount of controversy regarding genetically engineered corn, soybean, tomatoes and other crops has divided people from all over the world. Many feel safer alternatives to be organic production of our crops. On the other side you have the scientific community insisting that Genetic engineering is the only way to feed the world.
On the flip side you have organic farmers utilizing natural methods to grow food without the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. The urban grower has seen the light and the increasing market for these organic local and sustainable agricultural products. Consumers in urban areas are increasingly conscious of the health, environmental, and social impacts of the industrial food system and are actively seeking alternatives.
In cities every rooftop has the potential to grow food. Those run down abandoned lots in the city are prime real estate to the urban grower.
Growing on abandoned lots and creating food forests is the way more volunteer and community focused urban growers operate. Many of these growers utilize the principals of Permaculture. With permaculture, people work together and trade, share or sell crops and other agriculture products close to home. Anyone with the knowledge can create a permaculture food forest quite well on a small or large piece of land. Permaculture certainly has its place in sustainable urban agriculture. Permaculture is smart and a great way to grow great healthy nutritious food free from pesticides and all that other nasty stuff we don’t need.
Abandoned warehouses are also valuable real estate especially for the more ambitious of urban farming endeavors.
In a building the grower can utilize a wide variety of grow systems with many combinations. A building provides the potential for climate control with automated systems, computers and software.
One of the ways, quickly becoming a very popular method, of producing food in the urban environment is by using an interconnected system that utilizes fish farming and hydroponics. This method is known as aquaponics.
With aquaponics a community is provided with fish and vegetables. The entire operation is climate controlled, does not use chemical fertilizers, hormones, genetically engineered organisms, pesticides or anything not accepted to be organic. For maximum growing efficiency, vertical tower systems are utilized. Vertical towers save space and can grow significant quantities of food.
The aquaponics model of urban farming is good for the environment because it is a system that reclaims the water in a continuous loop cycle. The fish provide the fertilizer (fish poop) and water is obtained from rain water collection that is filtered and stored in cisterns.
An urban farming operation can be as high tech as ones imagination will go and how deep the dreamer’s pockets are. Growing indoors can provide a 365 day growing season by maintaining the ideal climate control. Keeping all operating cost low is critical to the success of the urban farmer.
An urban farming operation will need a combination of technologies. Some that are being utilized in different combinations are: solar panels, roof top thermal water heating and cooling systems, LED lighting, computer controlled automated irrigation, trained urban farming technicians and much more.
One emerging area in Indoor growing technology is the ongoing improvements in LED lighting systems. New led lighting technology provides low energy use with optimal wave lengths (light spectrums) that is specific to what plants need and actually recognize. That’s right folks; the plants can see the light.
Operating any business has risks and farming conventionally or with the urban model all have risks and profit must be achieved for the operation to prosper. The urban farmer especially the one that has invested significant capital starting an indoor high tech operation is most at risk.
The successful urban farmer looks for multiple income streams in the venture. One smart strategy that works is an exclusive arrangement with local restaurants dedicating a portion of the farms products to those establishments. This arrangement gives a chef limited quantities of specific products he or she request. These types of opportunities are possible as a result of the close physical proximity and personal relationships created by the urban farmer and the buyer.
Other income strategies are farm tours and merchandise sales. Some urban farmers also provide training programs.
The future is bright for urban farming. The people are in the cities and the people want to be part of the solution. How about you?