Cre­at­ing down­town farm­ing op­er­a­tions no longer just a joke

Moose Jaw - - News -

The idea that most farm pro­duce must grow in ru­ral ar­eas has been tack­led by a rel­a­tively new trend within cities.

Called ur­ban agri­cul­ture or ur­ban farm­ing, th­ese op­er­a­tion re-use older multi-storey build­ings to grow food in fac­tory style.

The ben­e­fits of this farm model vary from in­creased food pro­duc­tion, re­duced cost of food trans­porta­tion to cre­at­ing jobs and giv­ing new life to old build­ings. Canada has ur­ban farm­ers in many cities with Toronto a leader. More than 100 ur­ban farms op­er­ate in the United States.

80 Acres Farms of Hamil­ton, Ohio is one of the lat­est to grow from a small com­mer­cial lo­ca­tion to 150,000 square feet of au­to­mated space in an old build­ing. The farm paid $300,000 for the build­ing and in­vested $2 mil­lion into con­vert­ing the struc­ture to a hy­dro­ponic farm. Hy­dro­pon­ics use nu­tri­ent-laden wa­ter with­out soil to grow and can re­sult in yields much higher than tra­di­tional dirt farm­ing.

Au­to­mated con­trols gov­ern ev­ery­thing from seed­ing and nu­tri­ent avail­abil­ity right to har­vest for the crops. Crops in­clude mi­cro-greens, herbs, leafy let­tuce, kale, cherry toma­toes, cu­cum­bers and pep­pers — sim­i­lar to most ur­ban farms.

The 80 Acres Farms op­er­a­tion will cre­ate 134 jobs with an av­er­age salary of $65,000 a year.

The oper­a­tor claims a dou­bling in yield from this farm­ing model. No pes­ti­cides will be used.

The farm in­di­cates fresher food from its farm, picked when riper, will be more nu­tri­tious, say­ing 70 per cent of nu­tri­tional value can be lost in the 1,000 mile to 5,000 mile trans­port to mar­ket.

Wa­ter use will be re­duced by 97 per cent over out­door ir­ri­gated fields. No food will be wasted in trans­port. And the emis­sions from grow­ing and trans­port­ing food will be sub­stan­tially lower.

The farm has con­tracts to sup­ply four food store chains, among them or­ganic re­tailer Whole Foods, owned by Ama­zon and a num­ber of food ser­vice dis­trib­u­tors. Ur­ban farm­ing has been around for­ever in the form of back­yard gar­dens and was en­cour­aged dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.

A United Na­tions de­vel­op­ment study in 1993 found 15 per cent of the food con­sumed in cities around the globe was grown in cities. By 2005 that num­ber had reached 30 per cent.

Ur­ban farm­ing in Cuba sus­tains 200,000 jobs. And in Bangkok, Thai­land, 73 per cent of res­i­dents are in­volved in grow­ing food.

Ron Wal­ter can be reached at ron­joy@sask­

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