Growing Pains: 5 challenges facing urban agriculture (and how to overcome them)

Urban populations are growing rapidly, and so is the popularity of urban agriculture with city dwellers, chefs, and policymakers. As more people place larger demands on what was originally a grassroots movement, we look at some of the hurdles and how some companies and individuals are addressing them.

1. Scaling up
According to vertical farming advocate and author Dick Despommier, 80 percent of the world will live in urban areas by 2050. These types of numbers have whetted the appetites of many entrepreneurs, who see the looming mega-metropolis as an opportunity to develop larger scale urban farming projects that stress-test urban farming’s industrial and economic capacity.

Since scaling up by simply planting more acres isn’t an option in most urban environments, urban farming companies are addressing space constraints the way urban developers have addressed space constraints for centuries: going up instead of out.

Businesses like AeroFarms are able to grow 75 percent more food on the same sized footprint by stacking their growing operations vertically indoors. These high-tech growing operations substitute LED lighting, mineral solutions, and other calibrated artificial conditions for the soil, sun, and horizontal space of traditional farming.

Though this method comes with its own costs—including an enormous amount of energy consumption and loads of expensive equipment – it’s a model that presents itself as one answer to the question of what urban farming would have to look like in order to feed a substantial percentage of a city, producing three to four million pounds of leafy greens and herbs in less than one acre of growing space.

Read the other challenges at Seedstock.

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