Sourced from Futurism
Surplus and Scarcity
The planet is growing more food than ever, and yet millions of people continue to starve worldwide. People are hungry everywhere — in the country, in the suburbs. But increasingly, one of the front lines in the war against hunger is in cities. As urban populations grow, more people find themselves in food deserts, areas with “[l]imited access to supermarkets, supercenters, grocery stores, or other sources of healthy and affordable food,” according to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
New technologies are changing the equation, allowing people to grow food in places where it was previously difficult or impossible, and in quantities akin to traditional farms.
Farming at New Heights
Urban farms can be as simple as traditional small outdoor community gardens, or as complex as indoor vertical farms in which farmers think about growing space in three-dimensional terms. These complex, futuristic farms can be configured in a number of ways, but most of them contain rows of racks lined with plants rooted in soil, nutrient-enriched water, or simply air. Each tier is equipped with UV lighting to mimic the effects of the sun. Unlike the unpredictable weather of outdoor farming, growing indoors allows farmers to tailor conditions to maximize growth.
With the proper technology, farming can go anywhere. That’s what the new trend of urban farming shows — these farms go beyond simple community vegetable gardens to provide food to consumers in surrounding areas. All vertical farmers need is some space and access to electricity, no special facilities required. Farmers can buy everything they need to start and maintain their farms online as easily as shopping on Amazon.
In fact, because it’s so easy to access starting materials, officials don’t really know how many urban farms are running in the United States. A 2013 survey by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) received 315 responses from people operating facilities they describe as urban or suburban farms. However, federal grants for agriculture development show thousands of city-dwelling recipients, indicating that the number of urban farms is likely much higher.
“You have to look at these facilities in cubic feet as opposed to square feet. We can really put out a lot of produce from a facility like this,” Dave Haider, the president of Urban Organics, a company that operates urban farms based in St. Paul, Minnesota, told Futurism. Technology allows vertical farmers to control the environment in their farms, enabling them grow a lot more in the same amount of space, according to a 2014 study in the Journal of Agricultural Studies.