For centuries, science and technology have propelled the agriculture industry into periods of excess surplus and unparalleled advancement. At the same time, there is an ongoing hunger epidemic for which there is no sustainable solution at this time. Many experts believe that urban farming, which is the industry of bringing the practices of rural farming to smaller, vertical spaces in urban environments such as major cities or areas defined by overpopulation and food shortage, is one viable part of a longer-term solution.
In order to discuss the origins and process that define urban farming, it’s important to know why this innovative industry has sprouted in the first place. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly 24 million Americans live in food deserts: a geographical area in which access to affordable, healthy food options is limited or nonexistent. This is a result of rapid population growth, and little to no commercial growth of supermarkets and grocery stores within the borders of these rapidly growing cities and towns.
Food deserts are not exclusively an “American” problem. Access to healthy food and basic nutrition is slowly shrinking world wide. There are many causes for this rising global problem, and many will point to global warming, education, and politics as the major factors influencing extreme poverty and famine around the world. The richest nations and the poorest nations are now facing the same extremity of food shortage and overpopulation.
Urban farming is a way to bring healthy, affordable, and sustainable food and technology to underserved areas, as well as to increase production and productivity in otherwise unlikely ‘farming’ areas. Spaces are designed to maximize cubic feet, rather than square feet, so that every ounce of space is optimized to keep plants and people happy and healthy. By changing the way we think about growing spaces, we can actually revolutionize the entire agricultural industry. We are no longer contained to spacious fields or areas located outside city limits, making fresh food closer and better than ever.
These types of urban farming spaces are quite simple to set up, as well. All one really needs is a well designed space and a connection to electricity. It’s estimated that thousands of urban farms exist across the US, but very few are actually reported as a consumable space. There are also a number of businesses and startups designed to help those who wish to being their own urban farming endeavor.
While it looks like urban farming can provide unmatched benefits to areas recognized as food deserts, not everyone believes in the solution as a revolution to the agriculture industry. While easy to set up, it does require knowledge, skill, and commitment to maintain a successful urban farm. Additionally, very few select crops and plants can be grown in urban environments, making it only part of a solution for our present day crisis. But, many agree that this type of technology does have the potential to influence millions of Americans in need of accessible, affordable food. While many of the kinks are still being worked out to scale urban farming to a global scale, the individuals and organizations at the front lines have no intention of stopping anytime soon.
To join the urban farming revolution, check out these resources: