New Stories From 'Urban Agriculture Notes'
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Category — Entrepreneurs

This startup in Beijing buys old shipping containers and turns them into urban hydroponic farms

From left to right: Kazuho Komoda, Young Ha, and Stuart Oda.

The initial market will be limited to China.

By Paul Bischoff
September 8, 2014


This 13-year-old shipping container in the middle of a field in Beijing’s Shunyi district might not be easy on the eyes, but it’s shaping up to be a godsend for the tongue. On the inside, it’s been completely renovated to house a fully automated hydroponic farm with 1,600 heads of lettuce, celery, and other leafy greens for human consumption.

The facility was designed and built by the three founders of Alesca Life Technologies, a Beijing-based sustainable agriculture startup. The team spent an entire year designing the unit for maximum efficiency and output. They just conducted their first full harvest about three weeks ago.

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September 17, 2014   No Comments

The farm-to-vase movement: Local flower farms sprout on urban lots around New Orleans

Four New Orleans flower farms give a shout out to their favourite flowers.

The vast majority of cut flowers sold in the United States today are imported from Colombia, the Netherlands, Kenya, Israel

By Susan Langenhennig – The Times-Picayune
August 20, 2014


More than a decade ago, the soft-spoken gardener began growing roses, lilies, lavender and other flowers and fragrant herbs on a formerly blighted lot, now laid out in a neat parterre.

Interest in the less-traveled bouquet is finally catching up with her.

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August 30, 2014   Comments Off

University of Michigan graduate student uses vacant Detroit house for urban shrimp farming

University of Michigan graduate student Lizzie Grobbel holding a young shrimp in a net. Photo credit: Clive Waldron.

“Detroit has an estimated 79,000 vacant homes, many of which the city wants to demolish.”

By Jeremy Allen
Aug 10, 2014


Lizzy Grobbel, an environmental engineering master’s student and a Dow Sustainability Fellow at U-M, is pursuing a pilot project called “urban revitalization through sustainable small-scale aquaculture.”

Her mission: turning a vacant Detroit house into a shrimp farm.

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August 18, 2014   Comments Off

31 Days of Urban Agriculture

Hand cut Linoleum Block Print Set and Chapbook of Essays telling the story of the vibrant opportunities in urban agriculture.

By Lindsay Curren
Kickstarter campaign
August 2014


Combining my lifelong love of poster design — or to use the old school word, broadsides — with typography and images, I’m designing, cutting, and printing 31 original art pieces to tell the story of urban agriculture in a simple, accessible way. Really, it’s a story of beauty and the beast. First, there are the beauties — from bees and apple trees on Main Streets to farmers markets right downtown, and even DIY screens made of hops vines on the balconies of home brewers. And then there are the beasts, especially the danger of neighborhood food deserts and food insecurity that so many urban families face in today’s economy.

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August 14, 2014   Comments Off

Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers

From left, Josiah Venter, Noah Patrone-Werdiger and Toby Fischer remove rocks at Ro-Jo Farms in Bethany, Conn. Photo by Lili Holzer-Glier for The New York Times.

“In urban areas, supporting your local farmer may actually mean buying produce from former hedge fund managers or tax lawyers who have quit the rat race to get some dirt under their fingernails.”

By Bren Smithaug
New York Times
Aug. 9, 2014


The dirty secret of the food movement is that the much-celebrated small-scale farmer isn’t making a living. After the tools are put away, we head out to second and third jobs to keep our farms afloat. Ninety-one percent of all farm households rely on multiple sources of income. Health care, paying for our kids’ college, preparing for retirement? Not happening. With the overwhelming majority of American farmers operating at a loss — the median farm income was negative $1,453 in 2012 — farmers can barely keep the chickens fed and the lights on.

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August 12, 2014   Comments Off

‘Downtown Farming’ promotes homegrown produce in Johnson City, Tennessee


Downtown Farming offers the systems to circulate the water solution and the grow lights to start up a hydroponic operation, as well as conventional outdoor organic gardening supplies.

By Nathan Baker
Johnson City Press
July 22nd, 2014


For Downtown Farming owners Yancy and Valda Grimmett, business is growing.

After a decade dabbling in growing hydroponic produce, Yancy, with his new bride, Valda, decided to open the store last year in the former Honey-Krust Bakery on Johnson City’s Cherry Street, where they sell products for hydroponic and organic growing.

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July 31, 2014   Comments Off

Meet Washington DC’s urban farmers growing food and profits

Ryan Palmer, left, and AJ Cooper, of Freedom Farms, re-enact “American Gothic” at Gail Taylor’s Fourth Street Garden. Photo by Barbara L Salisbury.

The Urban Farming and Food Security Act of 2014, for example, would establish incentives for leasing land to farmers in the city and tax credits for farmers who donate their food to local nonprofits.

By Whitney Pipkin
Elevation DC Media
July 22, 2014


Meredith Sheperd, owner of Love & Carrots, has expanded her business that helps residents launch and maintain edible urban gardens in the District since we last wrote about her. She now has nine full-time employees and some apprentices tending to some 85 food gardens of varying sizes in and around the city.

That’s not counting the garden owners who have “graduated” from the program and are now maintaining their own, which would add up to nearly 200. Sheperd has decided to cap the number of gardens her crew can maintain at a given time at 100 this year, to keep the logistics more manageable.

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July 30, 2014   Comments Off

Selling from home in Denver

denverSee news video here.

The city charges a one-time fee of $20 for the licenses and state law caps sales for home-produced foods at $5,000 per item per year.

By Brandon Rittiman
July 15, 2014


The city passed an ordinance Tuesday designed to enable urban farmers to sell their crops from home, taking advantage of Colorado’s 2012 Cottage Food Act.

For Deb Neeley, it started with six cherry tomato plants she planted one summer.

They were a gateway. Soon she couldn’t get enough of growing her own food.

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July 24, 2014   Comments Off

Opportunity sprouts from Detroit’s urban farms

Ruth Hart of Detroit Farm and Garden stacks potting soil. The firm supplies compost and fertilizer to some urban farms. Photo by David Guralnick / The Detroit News.

New market emerging for seed, fertilizer, equipment suppliers

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News
July 5, 2014


The city’s estimated 1,400 urban farms and gardens have created new markets for farm loan banks and equipment companies that supply them with everything from seed and fertilizer to compost and tractors — just as they’ve done for years with Detroit’s rural counterparts throughout the state.

A small supply store opened in southwest Detroit in 2012. But for the most part, Detroit farms remained an untapped market for the farm supply, equipment and loan industry — until now.

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July 5, 2014   Comments Off

Vancouver’s Urban Agriculture Entrepreneurs

rideuaAaron Quesnel delivers fresh greens year-round to restaurants throughout Vancouver. Photo by Nik West.

For those who aspire to farm in the big city, the terrain is rough and strewn with obstacles. But urban agriculture can also be a viable business for hardworking souls, such as Aaron Quesnel, with an in-demand product–microgreens used by some of Vancouver’s top chefs–and a good story to share

Richard Littlemore
BC Business
July 1, 2014


Quesnel is the founder and president of Sky Harvest, which is the optimistic-sounding name of a business that, in May 2013, started selling produce generated in a 13-square-metre indoor farm, located in an unlovely and under-used storefront building on Powell Street in East Vancouver.

Quesnel and a skeleton staff plant, grow, harvest and deliver microgreens, the “nutrient-dense, visually appealing and flavourful” early shoots from a host of salad-friendly vegetables. Sky Harvest currently offers 13 varieties, including arugula, kale, radish, sorrel, cilantro, sunflower and peas. They harvest most crops after only a week, when they’re past the point of being “sprouts” but not yet “baby greens.”

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July 5, 2014   Comments Off

Urban farms one solution for ailing food system, Colorado agriculture activist says

Evan Premer, owner of Aero Farm Co. in Lakewood, Colorado. Photo appeared in Modern Farmer.

Olson says banks will eventually lend money to urban farmers — if they see examples of urban agriculture success.

Elaine Grant
Colorado Public Radio
June 18, 2014


Now Olson wants to prove that farmers — specifically of what he calls “high-value” leafy green crops like kale, Swiss chard, and spinach — can grow produce more efficiently in urban greenhouses than on large rural farms. Consequently, they can make a better living, he says. Olson says a farmer makes about $1500 harvesting an acre of commodity corn; a grower of organic corn may make $15,000 from an acre harvest. In contrast, he claims an urban farmer growing leafy greens vertically in a greenhouse can earn a quarter of a million dollars in revenue per acre.

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June 28, 2014   Comments Off

Farm stands turn your backyard kale into cold, hard cash

Photo by Becky Warner.

Urban farms should bring both food and income to their neighborhoods.

By Heather Hansman
June 26, 2014


Warner and four other urban farmers grow food in five backyards in north Seattle. Since 2011 they’ve been selling it at their front yard farm stands and through a CSA. They call their dispersed urban farm City Grown, and it’s exactly that: Food both grown and sold in the city.

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June 27, 2014   Comments Off

Grow Dat’s City Park farm yields an unexpected crop: good jobs for youth in New Orleans

Johanna Gilligan.

Last year Grow Dat alumni were hired by the New Orleans Food Co-op, the online retailer Good Eggs, Rouses, and Eco Urban landscapers.

By Johanna Gilligan
The Lens
June 17, 2014
Founding director of Grow Dat Youth Farm, Johanna Gilligan is a native of Santa Fe who has lived in New Orleans since 1999.


What I didn’t imagine was that urban farming experience might also prepare them for food-sector employment that could provide a decent hourly wage, benefits, and opportunities to advance. Fast forward 10 years, and I see a new kind of food sector job emerging—not just late-night minimum-wage jobs in a fast food restaurant or earning $2.13/hour waiting tables, but opportunities to work with businesses who are growing, selling, and preparing local food.

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June 26, 2014   Comments Off

Frequent flyer invests in city farming in Vancouver

Ahmed Amlani of Inner City Farms was surprised by Simon Pek’s $500 investment. Photo Dan Toulgoet.

Traveller sought local recipient to offset carbon footprint

Cheryl Rossi
Vancouver Courier
June 19, 2014


Pek, a PhD candidate in the faculty of business at Simon Fraser University, took an alternative route to compensate for carbon emissions from his flights. Instead of investing in a conventional carbon offset program, Pek invested $500 in Inner City Farms, a small business with 20 urban plots in Vancouver yards.

Pek likes that Inner City Farms displaces produce for more than 50 families and eight restaurants that would be transported from afar, grows its food organically, farms by hand and provides city dwellers the opportunity to learn about farming.

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June 21, 2014   Comments Off

‘Pennycress’ for bio-diesel latest entry into Detroit urban agriculture scene

Warren P. Palmer, of Stonehill Investments (left) and James J. Padilla, Jr., of MetroAg Services are two of the people responsible for creating this lot of urban agriculture and hope to plant flowers once the Pennycress is harvested this summer. Photo by Kimberly P. Mitchell/Detroit Free Press.

The goal is to use pennycress seeds to produce safe, clean fuel oil.

By John Gallagher
Detroit Free Press
June 8, 2014


Pennycress is a member of the mustard family that is planted in the fall and grows over the winter to be harvested in late spring, said Lance Stokes, the head of Metro Ag Services, a for-profit company that is behind the pennycress project. The goal is to use pennycress seeds to produce safe, clean fuel oil.

“Those seeds are what we’re going to harvest and crush and extract the oil to get the bio-diesel,” Stokes said.

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June 17, 2014   Comments Off