Vertical Farming Startups Seek Profit by Bringing Sustainable Agriculture to Cities
August 12, 2011 | seedstock
It’s Vertical Farming day over at Seedstock and we’re celebrating with a digest that features stories on a number of vertical urban agriculture startups that have the potential to play an outsize role in furthering the goals of sustainable agriculture. Enjoy your reads!
Finding fresh, high-quality produce in Montreal is a challenge. The long and winding road that produce typically travels from farm to market in this city means that it must be harvested far before it’s ripe in order to survive long shipping distances. The downfalls of the current supply chain – heavy fuel use, food safety risks, and the lack of personal connection between farmer and consumer – inspired Mohamed Hage, president and founder of Lufa Farms, to develop a model urban farm that would provide local, sustainable food to city dwellers.
To grow one million heads of lettuce using conventional agriculture methods in the US requires either 16 acres of land in the Northern states, 8 acres of land in the Southern states, or .9 acres in a traditional hydroponic greenhouse operation. Vancouver-based Valcent Products Inc. (OTCBB: VCTZF) claims that it can beat those numbers handily and produce the same amount of lettuce sustainably on just .16 acres with its patented hydroponic vertical growing system, VertiCrop™.
Dan Gibbs, CEO of San Diego, CA-based vertical organic farming startup Home Town Farms, doesn’t believe he’s introducing a new company, but an entire industry that will benefit consumers, the environment and the future of sustainable agriculture. “Urban farming isn’t new, vertical farming isn’t new, but vertical urban farming is new,” said Gibbs. To grow the vertical urban farming industry, Home Town Farms plans to build one-half to three-acre greenhouses on the rooftops, abandoned lots, and corners of urban areas in densely populated U.S. cities.
The idea for TerraSphere Systems’ vertical farming technology all started with a few marijuana plants. In fact, Nick Brusatore, Co-Founder and Inventor of TerraSphere Systems, began developing his unique hydroponic technology system for medical marijuana cultivation in Canada (Canada began offering medical marijuana to eligible patients in 2003). After working with their hydroponic technology for a while, Brusatore and his partner William Gildea began to think about population growth and quickly perceived the wider agricultural marketplace opportunities for their product to address future food shortages.
AeroFarms systems do not require vast swaths of arable land to grow food. They can be placed in refurbished industrial buildings and stacked vertically, one on top of another reaching up to 60 times the footprint in annual production. Seedstock recently spoke with Ed Harwood, CEO of AeroFarms, whose company has created an aeroponic growing system (a controlled environment agriculture system that grows produce without soil and without sun, all year round and in any location) with the potential to revolutionize and jumpstart the nascent urban agriculture movement and help to sustainably meet the food needs of a growing world.
Creating something out of nothing. Isn’t that the magic of farming? Taking things that don’t seem to mean much by themselves – dirt and seeds and water – and creating sustenance. Lately, skyfarmers like those at Sky Vegetables are trying to do that with even less. They’re taking the soil and even some of the water out of the equation, and substituting in an underused resource – roofs. In doing so, they hope to create value, jobs and local produce where before there was nothing.