When most people think of farms, they picture the rural countryside. But the practice of growing food in cities, or urban farming, is seeing a dramatic rise in popularity. In fact, a growing number of urban planners and real-estate developers are embracing urban farms as a way to help create the sustainable and productive cities of the future.
Unlike modern rural farming which involves large tracts of land and industrial machines, urban farming is all about strategic growing in tight spaces. It’s recent revival here in NYC started with individuals planting produce in all kinds of creative places: on windowsills, rooftops, and fire escapes. I grow my own herbs and vegetables on my terrace. But now business is getting in on the act, too. Companies are looking for ways to offer an ethical and environmentally-friendly alternative to factory farms by giving consumers local access to fresh organic produce all year round.
One successful example of today’s urban farming business is Infarm, a Berlin-based tech startup that developed a smart system of indoor vertical farms. These farms are modular (stacked cubes), and capable of growing an herbs, vegetables, and fruits in an array of customer-facing areas. They’re easy to install and easy to scale. Got more space? Just add more modules. This is just one of the many creative ways to bring fresh produce closer to the consumer and allow people to select and hand-pick their own produce.
At a glance, Infarm’s modules may seem somewhat familiar (vending machines, anyone?). But this isn’t some throwback idea. Companies like Infarm are disrupting the traditional grocery store business model by growing fresh produce at the point of sale. Infarm’s modules are cloud-based – monitored and regulated by a central control center. This means that each module can adjust its environment to give its produce the temperature, ph, light conditions, and nutrients for ideal growth and expression. This all leads to superior produce: better color, better flavor, and better nutritional quality – all with less waste.
Infarm has already made quite a splash in Germany, but they hope to reach beyond Europe and expand into cities all over the world. Their smart vertical farms are just one example of private businesses that are bringing the farm from the countryside back into the city – directly where we live and eat – and allowing people to take control of where their food comes from.