Maybe urban gardening is a fad and maybe it's not. At this point it's too early to tell. I don't think it's a fad or else I wouldn't have started a business to help urban & indoor understand seeds to make their businesses more successful, so clearly I'm bias. However, I'm going on the record to say that I think that urban farming of all sorts is growing in popularity. More than $300 million in venture capital has been invested in greenhouses and indoor vertical farms during each of the last three years, up from $100 million in 2016, according to Cleantech Group, an industry market research and consulting firm based in San Francisco. And these are just the biggest players.
This week, Google News pointed me to two new stories about urban farming and farmers. I've shared both of them on Facebook & LinkedIn, but for those of you that missed them, the links are below. First, a 31 year old real estate investor is running a 2,000 pilot plant factory in Chicago. He has plans to success where others have failed. Second, the biggest urban farm in Europe is underdevelopment. It will open next year and be 14,000 square meters in size. These big investments, in major cities keep grabbing headlines.
Jake Counne in Chicago is working with chefs and others to bring his produce to market. According to the Chicago Tribune he has impressed many with his spicy wasabi arugula, tart red sorrel and horseradish-tinged red mizuna. He grows these plants inside, under LED lights, in Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood.
Counne is aware of the challenges indoor farmers take to be profitable. He has invested heavily in automation. He also has a 2,000 square foot test farm that he is using to practice on. As we've talked about in earlier posts, making small mistakes is much cheaper than making the same mistake on a big farm. He is also taking advantage of consumer trends, with fresh, local, safe greens that are available year round. Plus by working with his customers he ensures that he is growing products that will sell, not just things he thinks sound fun to grow.
Then on the other side of the world, The Guardian reported that a 14,000 square meter farm is opening in south-west Paris. It will be the biggest farm in Europe and grown over 30 different fruits and vegetables. It will grow 1,000 kg of produce (or 2,200 pounds) a day during the high season and will be tended to by 20 farmers. Plus the farm will have an on-site restaurant and bar with capacity for 300 people. Giving paterons the opportunity to sample food grown right above their heads!
“The goal is to make the farm a globally-recognised model for sustainable production,” says Pascal Hardy, founder of Agripolis, the urban-farming company at the centre of the project. “We’ll be using quality products, grown in rhythm with nature’s cycles, all in the heart of Paris.”
Sustainability, safety, and quality are things that Hardy and Counne want to offer their clients and indoor and urban farming makes that possible.