While the prominence of industrial agriculture still remains, the urban farming movement has been experiencing a steady rise in participation, favorable local legislation, and positive media coverage. A recent article in the New York Times, which gave heavy praise to the thriving urban farming community in New York City, is a testament to how far farmers with an eye towards local food production can reach into the national consciousness. Likewise, some recent ventures and proposals in urban farming have shown that people are thinking on grander scales than ever before. For example, New Orleans is welcoming a new food and farm center that joins innovative recirculating agriculture with traditional soil-based growing. Amidst the many urban farms sprouting up across the country, recirculating farming has begun to establish itself as a particularly sustainable and efficient method of food production. So, why might recirculating farms be particularly suitable for growing food in confined urban settings? Here are a just a few reasons why:
1. Soiless. As our population becomes increasingly more urbanized and the availability of contaminant free arable land is reduced, we will need to find alternative spaces for food production. Luckily, urban rooftops and vacant city lots in cities provide ample unused space for food production. Although some urban rooftop farms have found success in soil-based growing, recirculating rooftop farming could eliminate the costs and problems associated with transporting soil to inner cities. Furthermore, recirculating farming involves recycling your water supply so that water consumption can be reduced significantly. Without the need for soil, this method of farming could be easily integrated into crowded urban settings.
2. Space efficient. One of the greatest advantages of recirculating farming is that it can happen in odd shaped or small spaces while still providing high yields. Most traditional farming is done in soil, on horizontal surfaces. Recirculating farms can even be be built vertically to consolidate the overall area that is used for growing. Take, for example, EnviroIngenuity’s recently completed hydroponic vertical greenhouse in Laguna Beach, California, which takes up a mere 260 square feet. These farms can move toward commercial-scale operations like Gotham Greens, a start-up farming company that will build a 12,000 square foot rooftop farm in New York City that will produce “30 tons of fruit and vegetables every year.”
3. Fish! Most of the fish we consume here in the U.S. comes from somewhere else – in fact, often far far away. This means that we pay in transportation costs (and thus also environmental costs as we expend fossil fuels to move the fish thousands of miles) and a reduction in quality by the time it reaches our plates. Raising fish through recirculating methods, on the other hand, can allow people access to more locally produced fish (or be a new source of fresh local seafood for people living away from the coast or lakes and rivers). For example, a commercial aquaponic rooftop farm, located in Basel, Switzerland, and operated by UrbanFarmers AG, is expected to produce up to 800 kilograms of fish per year, feeding around 100 people. Certain kinds of fish, namely tilapia, thrive in a variety of environments and grow so rapidly that they can be harvested on a nearly constant basis. This means that urban dwellers can have greater supplies of fish and produce, even in spite of problematic weather conditions.
So check out recirculating farms and jump in on the good food revolution!