At this point, the benefits of indoor urban farming are common knowledge: fresher food, fewer transportation emissions, and less spoilage thanks to shorter transit distances.
NYC’s Gotham Greens highlighted those and other benefits this week with the announcement that it had closed a $29 million Series C equity funding round led by Silverman Group and Creadiv. This latest round brings the company’s total funding to $45 million, and will help them “finance the expansion trajectory,” which covers 500,000 square feet currently under development in five different states.
Gotham is one of several major success stories for NYC-based urban indoor farming companies, many of which we’ve covered extensively at The Spoon. But the Big Apple’s not the only city making indoor urban farming widely available and, in the process, changing the way we think about farming.
In fact, today marks the opening of the Farm on Ogden in Chicago, a massive facility and project aimed at providing fresh, local food to an undernourished (literally and figuratively) part of the Windy City.
With those two pieces of news in mind, here’s a brief look at a few other cities and companies where the indoor farming movement is thriving:
Though the enormous vertical farming operation FarmedHere shuttered in 2017, Chicago is still seeing plenty of developments from other urban agriculture players. Gotham Greens operates a facility in the Pullman area. And generating quite a bit of buzz of late is the aforementioned Farm on Ogden, a partnership between the Lawndale Christian Health Center and Chicago Botanic Garden. The $3.5 million year-round project will provide both jobs and local, sustainably produced food to the struggling North Lawndale area, where unemployment soars, over 14 percent of the population has diabetes, and one in four adults suffers from PTSD. The multi-use facility will offer year-round food production, teaching kitchens, and job training for everyone from teenagers to those with criminal backgrounds. The project is also in the midst of building a 50,000-gallon aquaponic system that will raise lettuce and tilapia.
Like Chicago, Boston’s urban landscape and often-grim weather make it a prime candidate for the indoor urban farming movement.
Dorm-room project turned full-fledged business Grove takes a slightly different approach, trading enormous warehouses for compact pieces of furniture in which to place its “farms.” As my colleague Catherine noted recently, Grove has teamed up with furniture and appliance companies to create custom hardware, while it supplies seed pods and ag software to cultivate the crops.
If, on the other hand, you’re after a more utilitarian means of growing your produce, Freight Farms can provide you with one of its vertical farms housed in 40-square-foot shipping containers. Each Leafy Green Machine container is a fully climate controlled environment with vertical crop columns, LEDs, and a closed-loop hydroponic irrigations system. The accompanying farmhand platform, meanwhile, lets users automate many of the growing tasks, and generates real-time data for crop analysis. Freight Farms counts multiple universities, as well as big names like Google, among its customers.
Of course, if any city stands poised to benefit from the urban agriculture revolution, it’s Detroit; its 78,000 empty/abandoned spaces are prime real estate for potential farming endeavors.
Artesian Farms is a great example: the company’s current warehouse facility sat abandoned from the late ’90s to when the company moved in around 2014. Now, thanks to a collaboration with Green Spirit Farms, Artesian has turned the warehouse’s 7,500 square feet of traditional space into one gigantic vertical farm. The company is also a community builder: 100 percent of current employees are from the surrounding Brightmoor neighborhood, which also benefits from access to the food produced.
RecoveryPark Farms, meanwhile, is another effort to transform urban blight via indoor and urban farming practices. The project grows produce, root vegetables, and herbs in hydroponic greenhouses that’s then shipped out to restaurants within a 300-mile radius.
Like many other companies listed here, RecoverPark provides as much community outreach and employment as it does homegrown food. Which, at the end of the day, is really what “eating local” should be all about.