urban farming business and sustainable agriculture

urban farming business and sustainable agriculture

The urban farming business is growing fast. Individuals, neighborhood groups, and local coõperations are getting involved in sustainable agriculture in cities, as well as companies and agricultural entrepreneurs. They are facilitated by local governments, community initiatives, academic researchers, and investors to start vertical farming, rooftop greenhouses, or aquaponic farms. What started as a movement is developing into an interesting business case all over the world.

According to a report published by Fior Markets, the global urban farming market is expected to grow from USD 2.77 billion in 2019 to USD 16.14 billion by 2027. In North America, increased supply from retail stores of fresh vegetables is expected to drive the market in this region. Is urban farming profitable? Looking at the rate of expansion, it must be.

The growing urban population is a contributing factor in urban farming activities such as derelict buildings and revamping derailed warehouses, which has increased the local production of food. The potential is enormous: from a world population of 8 billion, 75% live in cities.

Who is farming the city?

Realizing the urban farming business case involves a wide specter of participants. They may be existing farmers looking to expand into urban areas, or aspiring entrepreneurs eager to capitalize on the growth of local food markets. Individuals with backgrounds in agriculture, engineering, business and other fields can also be met in urban farming.

Public and private entities such as universities, non-profits, charities, and community initiatives join the party too. These organizations help to spread awareness of urban agriculture, provide research and development support, as well as promote entrepreneurship in the field.

Local governments often play a key role in promoting urban farming. City councils can introduce incentives such as subsidies or tax breaks for sustainable agriculture while providing infrastructure to ensure that urban farming projects are successful.

Finally, investors are also a major part of the urban farming movement. By providing capital to aspiring farmers and entrepreneurs, these investors can help to create jobs and stimulate economic growth in urban areas. They actually fuel the urban farming business case.

A short overview with examples from each category:

Organizations at the grassroots

The Urban Farming Institute (UFI) was Founded in 2009 as a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting urban agriculture and sustainable food production. Through its educational programs, research initiatives, and policy advocacy work, UFI works to empower communities and create new opportunities for those living in urban areas. Their work is focused on five core areas: education, research, policy and advocacy, training, and development.

A non-profit organization based in New York City, GrowNYC works to create a healthier and more sustainable city by offering educational programs, green spaces, and urban farming initiatives to the local community. Through their Greenmarket project, they are also helping to support local farmers and increase access to fresh, locally-sourced produce.

The Urban Farming Guys, A social enterprise based in South Africa, work to create healthier cities through urban farming initiatives. They are committed to training, educating, and empowering individuals living in urban areas so that they can become successful entrepreneurs in the urban farming sector.

Urban farmers

Based in the UK, Farm Urban is an urban agriculture business that specializes in building rooftop farms and vertical gardens for both commercial and residential customers. Their mission is to make urban farming more accessible by providing innovative products and services that enable city dwellers to grow their own food.

BrightFarm Systems designs, builds and operates rooftop greenhouses for cities around the world. By creating these efficient greenhouses, BrightFarm is able to provide fresh produce to urban communities while also reducing environmental impacts associated with traditional agriculture methods. Through their innovative approach to urban farming, BrightFarm Systems is helping to increase access to healthy food in cities and encourage sustainable practices that benefit the environment.

BrightFarm Systems has been a leader in the urban farming movement since its founding in 2011. By leveraging advanced technologies such as hydroponics and aquaponics, they have created efficient greenhouses that are able to grow crops year-round. Their goal is to provide communities with access to high-quality, locally-sourced produce while also reducing the environmental impact of traditional agriculture methods. In addition, they are working to create jobs in urban farming and stimulate economic growth in cities around the world.

Gotham Greens is an urban farming company that operates rooftop greenhouses in several cities across the US and Europe. They have raised over $30 million from investors, including Localize, Goldman Sachs and Blue Horizon Ventures.

gotham green urban farming rooftop greenhouse

Gotham Green rooftop greenhouse

Gotham Greens designed and built its flagship greenhouse in 2011, in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn. The state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouse facility represented a shift in the concept of urban farming: from seasonal community gardening resource to a year-round, viable, commercial-scale farming enterprise. The greenhouse remains one of the most high profile contemporary urban agriculture projects worldwide. By now, it runs a 10-acre, state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouse near the University of California-Davis campus and has facilities at more than 10 locations in the US.

Growy is a vertical farming company that has developed a platform for creating and managing vertical farming systems. Its label Chef’s Farm provides chefs with the most sustainable, fresh, and tasty garnishes, that are grown locally in the city of Amsterdam. Growy is the first large-scale commercial vertical farm in the Netherlands, that efficiently uses water and energy, and is completely pesticide-free. It has branches in Kuwait and Singapore.

ECF Farm operates one of the world’s most modern urban aquaponics facilities, the ECF FARM Berlin. On the site of the beautiful MALT FACTORY it combines fish farming with vegetable cultivation and produces regional “capital city perch” and fresh “capital city basil”. ECF is one of the pioneers in aquaponics and builds and supports aquaponics farms in Switzerland and Belgium as well.

SoCal Restaurants SoCal restaurants work together with urban farmers to save the planet one meal at a time. The LA Times made a great video about their program.

Urban farming as an investment opportunity

The high-tech side of urban farming is becoming a fast-growing business. State-of-the-art technology means serious investment. It brings in specialized suppliers of equipment, materials, IT and services. All of them require research, development and high-performance qualities. Those don’t come cheap. That’s where substantial investment needs and their providers come in.

By providing capital to aspiring farmers and entrepreneurs, investors can help to further the growth of this movement and create jobs while also creating a healthier and more sustainable future. With its promise of fresh, locally-sourced produce, urban farming is becoming an increasingly attractive option for cities around the world looking to create a healthier environment. As this movement continues to grow and gain traction, it will be critical that investors play their part by providing capital to aspiring farmers and entrepreneurs in order to help them build a better future.

Some examples of investors in urban farming

AgFunder is a venture capital firm that specializes in investing in technology, agritech and new approaches to food production. AgFunder has been actively involved in the urban farming movement, investing over $100 million in companies developing new technologies for growing crops indoors and on rooftops. They have backed several companies that are making significant strides in the urban farming space, such as BrightFarms and AeroFarms.

Localize is a venture fund that invests in companies developing solutions to create more equitable access to healthy food options. They have invested in several companies working on urban farming technologies, including BrightFarms and Bowery Farming.

Blue Horizon is an impact investor from Switzerland that invests holistically in the Sustainable Food System, with an end-to-end approach that extends beyond alternative proteins, starting with better crop practices right through to sustainable packaging and smarter distribution. Mass adoption will happen within the decade as these sustainable options continue to outperform their conventional counterparts.

Feeding 10 billion people by 2050 in a sustainable manner requires enormously transformative change. The focus of Blue Horizon is on achieving systemic change to our food system. As they say:  we’re not looking for the next best thing. We’re looking for those things that change everything. Examples of their investments are Gotham Greens and Mosa Meat.

Urban farming is quickly becoming an increasingly popular trend. The number of city farm projects has been steadily increasing over the last several years. According to a study conducted by Michigan State University, there are more than 4,000 urban farms active throughout the US alone. Within the urban farming business, vertical farming is a fast-growing technology that is developing fast.

As cities continue to look for ways to become more sustainable, urban farming is a trend that is sure to keep growing. With continued capital from investors, aspiring farmers and entrepreneurs will have the resources they need to help shape the future of sustainable agriculture in urban areas, where food is most needed indeed. Urban farming rocks!

Read the previous iNSnet articles about urban farming:

10 ways how urban farming makes cities more resilient and sustainable

11 successful practices in urban farming