A hundred years ago, one of music’s big hits was “How Ya Gonna Keep ‘em Down on the Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree)?” In 2019, urbanites no longer have to make that distinction: they can see Paree—or New York or Tokyo—while still engaging in agriculture.
The implications go far beyond the tiny flower beds or vegetable patches that may have adorned apartment-building courtyards in years past. “Most people associate urban farming with rooftop gardens,” according to Cushman & Wakefield. “While these are proliferating in larger numbers, they are only a small part of the trend.”
Increasingly, says Cushman & Wakefield, developers and landlords seek to be eco-friendly and provide greater amenities to their residents, “whether they be apartment dwellers, office workers or restaurants seeking their own easily accessible farm-to-fork food chain.”
Since the acreage required in conventional farming isn’t readily available in densely-packed cities, urban farming operations employ technology that obviates such a land-use requirement. These include hydroponic (growing plants without soil using water solvent), aeroponic (growing plants in an air or mist environment, originally designed by NASA) and aquaponic (ecosystems that support both plants and fish) methods.
Using such technology, coupled with LED lighting systems, “urban farming operations create controlled environments that can potentially boost food production massively, while simultaneously reducing the negative ecological impacts of agriculture,” according to Cushman & Wakefield. “Urban farms hold the power to insulate farming operations from the impacts of climate change, shifting weather patterns and/or drought.”
If these methods are implemented on a large scale, “the potential impact on food production output is massive,” Cushman & Wakefield says. For example, a leading Japanese farming outfit recently reported that its Tokyo operation boasts a crop yield that is 50 to 100 times greater per square meter than that of a conventional farm, “thanks to year-round crop production under perfect conditions.
“This means that some crops that may only be harvested two to three times a year on a traditional farm could be harvested as much as 10 times more often using an indoor vertical farming layout,” says Cushman & Wakefield.
Meanwhile, vertical stacking means that the potential food production output of any piece of land can be multiplied exponentially, the firm says. Additionally, says Cushman & Wakefield, “because indoor cropping operations utilize extensive data-driven precision in their operations, waste caused by human error is also significantly reduced.”
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