Urban Farming Solutions for a Sustainable Food System

Access to food is a basic human right, but the global food system has struggled to keep up with urbanization and climate-related changes. For modern farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs, looking to greener pastures has meant looking up and to their communities. Vertical farming, urban farms, and alternative models often prove to be more efficient than traditional farms while reducing the carbon intensity of supply chains. These solutions are laying the groundwork for a more sustainable food system. 

Vertical Field’s Holistic Vertical Farming System

Vertical Field was founded in 2006 to address the world’s food security issues within urban environments. Their holistic vertical farming systems use IOT software to efficiently grow nutritious food any time of year. The vertical farms can be positioned on-site to supply grocers, restaurants, hotels, schools, and other establishments with fresh produce, in turn reducing emissions required to deliver produce. The ag-tech company is also involved in the largest known living walls experiment with the goal of informing models and policies for cities working to reduce their carbon footprint. 

Listen to Bigger Than Us #115 with Guy Elitzur, CEO of Vertical Field

Bonton Farms 

At Bonton Farms, community is just as important as cultivation. The farm is located in the Bonton neighborhood, where two centuries of racial injustice and systemic oppression have restricted residents’ access to basic needs. To counter this, resources for nutrition, housing, career mentorship, and education are all provided at Bonton. Personal beliefs inspired founder Daron Babcock to leave his corporate career and serve the inner-city Bonton residents. Today Bonton features two farms, a farmer’s market, and a coffee house, proving that community action can disrupt deeply-rooted systems of inequity. 

Listen to Bigger Than Us #163 with Daron Babcock, Founder and CEO, Bonton Farms

Freight Farms Shipping Container Farms

Seeing a need for urban agriculture to emerge as a competitive industry in the food landscape, Jon Friedman and Brad McNamara founded Freight Farms in 2013. They chose to build their hydroponic farms in shipping containers because they were modular and easy to transport. Freight Farms’ flagship product Greenery S can be used to grow over 500 crop varieties with annual harvests of 2-4 tons. To optimize the farms, they developed farmhand, a farm optimization software. The company continues to update the Greenery S model and innovate to fulfill its mission of building the infrastructure and technology that can allow local food to thrive.

Listen to Bigger Than Us #155 with Jon Friedman, Co-Founder of Freight Farms

Steward’s Online Platform for Investing in Sustainable Farms

For farmers using sustainable methods, getting a loan through traditional channels can be challenging. Dan Miller founded Steward after hearing about farmers in his hometown who were facing this setback. Since 2017, Steward has provided private loans to regenerative farmers, ranchers, fishermen and producers. Qualified lenders can become stewards of regenerative agriculture by contributing to Steward regenerative Capital campaigns with $100-$1,000,000, providing a diverse range of producers with the funding they need to grow. 

Listen to Bigger Than Us #59 with Dan Miller, Founder and CEO of Steward

80 Acres Farms Renewable-Energy Powered Vertical Farms

Growing better food in less space with renewable energy and no pesticides was the goal of 80 Acres Farms. That mission has been accomplished with their efficient vertical farming techniques. Everything is grown indoors “with robots and AI to do the heavy lifting, while the humans focus on growing the freshest food possible,” according to their website. Their salad blends, microgreens, herbs, and vegetables are currently distributed in over 600 retail stores and foodservice locations. 

Listen to Bigger Than Us #64 with Mike Zelkind, co-founder, and CEO of 80 Acres Farms

Hear interviews with leaders in the cleantech, green tech, and sustainability sectors every week on the Bigger Than Us podcast

Raj Daniels

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