Creating downtown farming operations no longer just a joke
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 firstname.lastname@example.org