How to Start an Urban Farm Business

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How to start an urban farm business

Urban farming is all the rage, and as more and more agricultural land is bought up by mega corporations and increasing numbers of people flock to cities in search of economic opportunity, it’s likely to be a trend which continues to surge in popularity in the future.

How to start an urban farm business

How to start an urban farm business

Let’s take a look at urban farming and what you’ll need to build a sustainable, profitable business in this field.

Step 1: Research Cash Crops

Since urban farming by its very design has inbuilt space limitations which a traditional farm might not experience, you’ll have to focus on high-value crops which don’t require a lot of space to begin.

Common crops found on urban farms are:

  1. berries
  2. herbs
  3. and some varieties of vegetables

Coffee and sugarcane just won’t cut the mustard when it comes to urban farming since the space they require make farming them impractical in most urban settings.

Focus on high-value berries and herbs and if you can select a crop which doesn’t grow locally in your area and, therefore, fetches a higher price, that’s even better. Some of the highest value crops which don’t require endless space are gourmet mushrooms, blueberries, ginseng, basil, and oregano.

urban berry farm

urban berry farm

Not only will you need to research which crops fetch the highest return per pound and how much space they take up, but you’ll also have to look at what conditions they grow in and how you can artificially create those conditions where necessary. This will involve equipment, which we’ll look at in step 3.

Step 2: Research the Law & Get Permits

You’ll need to comply with agricultural legislation and consider zoning laws and licensing before you even begin.

Since you’re producing something which human beings will consume and which could affect their health, you’ll need to have a permit if you want to urban farm on any reasonable scale.

Every state and country will have different requirements, but a good place to start is your county or state agricultural body. Find their website and find out what you need to do to keep things above board.

Step 3: Think About What Equipment You Need

Urban farming requires equipment. Since there is no rain or natural light inside a shipping container or warehouse (two of the most popular locations for urban farms) and the temperature and humidity will likely be vastly different from what crops would be subject to in a field, you’ll have to create the conditions needed for your crops to flourish.

Here are some things you may need for your urban farm:

  • Artificial UV lights to create optimal light conditions. Since you can control these and you can’t control the weather, they can really work to your advantage.
  • Hydroponic grow systems to allow your crops to grow in water. This can really speed up to growth and maturation process and crop yields can be greater than if they were planted in soil.
  • Multistory shelving systems with lights at each level. You want to make the best of the space you’ve got. Shelving systems can allow you to farm on multiple levels, rather than just on the floor.
  • Dehumidifiers to take moisture out of the air. Some crops do well in humid climates while others choke and die. You’ll need to dehumidify regularly if your crop is best suited to dry climates.
  • Fertilizers and minerals. You’ll need these to boost your crop yield and ROI. There are different kinds suitable for soil-based and hydroponic farming. Do your research.

Once you figure out what you need….

Step 4: Plan Out the Farm Layout

Urban farms come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. From fully converted abandoned warehouses in Detroit to single shipping containers, you can start an urban farm to suit your budget.

Plan everything in detail including structure, supply and storage of needed materials, and staff. Smaller scale farms can likely be managed by you alone. Larger scale farms will need staff to man them at all times. Some larger scale farms may require security.

Step 5: Hook Up With Markets

It’s best to have a buyer lined up in advance if possible, or, at least, a potential buyer.

Some places you can find buyers are farmers markets, weekly outdoor markets, smaller stores in your town or city, local cafes and restaurants, and through networks of people who enjoy certain foods and medicinal herbs which you can find online.

You may find yourself in a Catch-22 where people will not commit to buying until they see what sort of quality you can produce. In this case, you can either produce a small sample crop or set up your own market stall to sell your produce.

Pro-Tip: Create a crop schedule. You don’t want to have a huge supply at one time and then have to wait for the next harvest. Start crops at different times to ensure a steady supply all year long. Buyers will value this and you won’t encounter the same cash flow issues some traditional farms have if one crop fails or the market price trends downwards temporarily and you can’t shift a large supply of stock.

Step 6: Launch

Now you’re ready to launch. You’ve planned everything in detail, found a great location, bought your equipment and found a potential market for your crop.

It’s time to plant and reap the rewards.

Summary: How to start your Urban Farm Business

Farming is one of the oldest businesses known to humanity. We’ve been doing it since the dawn of time.

Urban farming is just the latest trend in this age-old business. With seeds now available from every corner of the earth and the equipment to create whatever artificial and controlled conditions you desire, you can grow anything your heart desires.

Urban farming is in. Are you?