Hydroponics and new, high-tech urban agricultural techniques are now growing fresh food in the middle of Manhattan and other large metropolitan centers globally. People are catching onto the taste and business opportunities of urban agriculture: find it growing in Middle Eastern cities such as Cairo, Egypt too!
Urban farming in midwestern American cities like Chicago has had its limitations due to adverse winter weather conditions at least 9 months a year. New indoor farming techniques use vertical farming, special indoor LED lighting and hydroponic systems that pump soybean and kelp-infused water through a temperature and humidity-controlled system, nearly 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
This unique hydroponic farming system is at Bedford Park, about 15 miles (25 km) southwest of Chicago. The Bedford Park project, being carried out by a company known as Farmed Here is housed in a 90,000 square foot warehouse. The project produces a number of green vegetables and herbs; including basil, baby greens, broccoli, and kale.
Farmed Here is just one of more than 821 agricultural projects found under the Chicago Urban Center Agriculture Mapping Project that includes anything from small private urban projects to multi-acre urban agricultural farms.
Farmed Here’s CEO Nate Laurel, a venture capital investor in his own right, put $13 million into the project that has a combined investment of more than $50 million USD. He says that this investment is worthwhile, considering the demand for fresh vegetable produce in the Chicago metro area alone.
“The greens market for Chicago alone is $400 million dollars,” he says. “Given the market is so big, it’s so top of mind for people to know where their food came from and how it was grown”, he adds.
Urban faming projects have also gone big-time by a rival company, Brooklyn based Gotham Greens, which opened a 75,000 sq. ft. rooftop farm in Chicago’s Pullman Park quarter in November 2015. In contrast to the LED lighting used by Farmed Here, the Gotham Greens project also uses natural sunlight, that is absorbed through a translucent roof. This idea is more in line with the traditional greenhouse lighting idea.
Dallas, Texas is also getting into the urban farming business: it has opened the office for Flux Farm, Inc., a company (founded and co-owned by Green Prophet’s Karin Kloosterman) to bring space-age artificial intelligence to predict and optimize the growth of plants in controlled environment growing. This company aims to connect urban farms everywhere for data, community and eventually selling produce grown. The company is piloting its technology at an urban indoor hydroponics park in Massachusetts.
The idea of urban farming has also been promoted by Michelle Obama, wife of US President Barack Obama, and who also hails from Chicago. The First Lady launched an urban gardening project in a section of the White House grounds in the Spring of 2012. Her urban gardening project has given her the title of First Lady of Urban Gardens.
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