The rise of urban agriculture can be attributed to many factors, including advances in technology and an increase in consumers who want locally produced food. Urban agriculture is generally defined as the process of growing plants and raising animals in urban areas. Achieving that has historically been difficult, but with the development of new technologies it is becoming easier and more productive over time.
Food security has become an issue for many urban residents, and urban agriculture holds great promise to empower city dwellers to take more control of food production and delivery. With the growth of technology, it is more feasible than ever to learn how to grow food in constrained and suboptimal locations.
Inputs for urban agriculture are markedly different than for traditional agriculture
Most people have a certain image in mind when they think of agriculture in the U.S.: a big tractor crawling across infinite acres of row crops, likely corn or wheat. A red barn, silo and cozy farmhouse are clustered together in the distance.
But urban farming is vastly different, often occurring in opportunistic locations: rooftops, reclaimed pocket parks, backyards, schools, warehouses and churches. Urban farmers are reclaiming rooftops from vast industrial structures in cities like New York and Detroit. Intrepid farmers are raising poultry in the backyards of row homes in some of the most densely populated places in the country.
Whereas traditional farming relies on fertilizer, water, pesticides and experienced labor, urban agriculture uses recycled and up-cycled materials like compost, reclaimed wastewater, and volunteer and self-educated labor. Since urban agriculture is contextual and relies on local delivery, it tends to cut across a wide swath of the economic spectrum, with many moderate- and low-income individuals and families participating in the urban agriculture ecosystem.
Ecological impact of urban agriculture
Since urban areas are more densely populated and generate far more waste products per acre versus rural areas, recaptured waste material provides a double benefit in the form of reducing the need for waste disposal and providing fertilizer for plants. By collecting waste and organic refuse, urban farmers have access to animal feed from discarded vegetable compost and fertilizer from other materials.
Technology and the Internet of things (IOT) as catalysts for urban agriculture
Tech-inspired agriculture is taking shape in cities using the Internet of Things (IOT), which provides data analytics for crop inputs, weather and other key essential inputs for growing. LED lighting, hydroponics and sensors monitoring refrigeration are enabling precision farming to take shape for urban farmers where they can convert old industrial buildings into large-scale greenhouses.
Adjacency to consumers is key for urban agriculture
Producing food closer to consumers can reduce the shipping distance, fuel cost and labor required for its production and delivery. In this way, urban agriculture neatly fits into the overall impetus to reduce carbon emissions, particularly in cities that are more heavily impacted by pollution.
In addition, the marketing and production elements for food produced in urban areas tends to be far more integrated. With a relatively high proportion of high-value crops like herbs, micro greens, mushrooms, heirloom grains and free-range poultry, the specialized nature of urban agriculture works well with local restaurants, hotels and bars.
Halderman Real Estate and Farm Management provides insight into farm operations and food production and has for many generations. We have vast experience with traditional, open field production. We recognize the growth of urban agriculture and bring this article to you to create awareness of the new trend.