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Urban Farming Creating Opportunities for Investors, Developers, and Entrepreneurs

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in urban farming. Despite limitations in available space, people create their own green oasis in the middle of their concrete jungle.

The Joy of Having Plants in Cities

Part of it is the need to soothe mental health. People nowadays, especially young generations, are experiencing high stress levels due to traffic, work or school, financial insecurities, and other sources. Although not a cure to any mental health condition, seeing and caring for plants has been proven through numerous studies to lower stress levels.

People are also more aware of the impact of their actions on the environment. Food that is available in grocery stores is not grown locally. They are shipped from somewhere else, often crossing oceans and borders.

Food travels around 1,000 miles (1,609.34 km) to 2,000 miles (3,218.69 km) on average before reaching grocery store shelves. Avocados, for example, are being imported by the United States from Mexico. Meanwhile, the nation is dependent on Guatemala, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Honduras for bananas. Those who grow their own food lower their greenhouse gas emissions because food does not need to travel. They access fresh produce right in their own backyard.

Moreover, moving fresh produce from farm to grocery store creates food waste. Up to 20 to 30 percent of food loss occurs during the transportation process. Not to mention, food that is not bought is thrown away to become waste.

Urban farming provides more benefits such as cleaner indoor air, improved physical health, visually pleasing and relaxing environment. It is no wonder, therefore, why more people are interested in it. Investors can capitalize on the popularity of urban farms.

Urban Farming Defined

As the term suggests, urban farming is the process of growing plants in a city. It can take a variety of forms. The farm can be located on a rooftop of a tall building or indoors of a studio apartment. It can also be a community garden which, in the past year, has grown in popularity. Most are grown traditionally with nutrient-dense earth. However, others are hydroponic, which utilizes only water, or aeroponic, which grows with air and mist exclusively, with no soil.

More urban farmers have adopted aquaponics, a method of growing plants in water tanks that also houses aquatic animals, like fish, prawns, and snails, to provide the fertilizer.

An urban farm requires a good deal of attention. Those who go the traditional route will need to install irrigation systems to provide hydration to parched plants. It also will need some protection from common urban pests, which include rats and raccoons.

Indoor urban farms, on the other hand, have unique needs. Those who want to create their own will have to add temperature and humidity control and air filtration systems, too.

Opportunity in Urban Farming

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Investors have noticed the attention and interest urban farms are getting, and they have started pouring money toward it. Some investors fund initiatives to start urban farms. For example, Steward is a crowdfunding platform specifically aimed toward sustainable farming practices, especially in urban settings. Several real estate investment fund trusts also create opportunities for urban farmers to start urban farms across the nation.

Some developers are also now looking into incorporating urban farms as a perk to commercial real estate projects to reel clients. They add rooftop gardens, community gardens, and vertical gardens on top of or alongside apartment buildings, office buildings, and retail stores and restaurants. It is an attractive feature, especially after the pandemic.

More Americans started gardening as a hobby and an additional source of fresh food in the last year. The hobby, which encourages people to go out under the sun more and to get more physical activity, will likely persist even after the current public health crisis has passed. It has been a rising trend for the past decade. In fact, about 35 percent of American households grow food at home or in a community garden, according to the National Gardening Association.

In Detroit, blighted buildings came back to life after entrepreneurs reused abandoned former factories and warehouses as indoor urban farms. They grow lettuce, kale, basil, and other leafy greens — that lose the majority of their nutritional value a day after harvest — to sell to the community.

More Americans want to be urban gardeners, creating financial opportunities for small-time entrepreneurs, real estate developers, and investors. It also benefits regular people who participate in it.

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