Urban Farming: Is It Financially And Spatially Feasible?

FarmBiz|July 2020

Urban Farming: Is It Financially And Spatially Feasible?
The term ‘urban farming’ paints a picture of city dwellers attempting to grow their own food in their backyard vegetable gardens, investing large amounts of money, time and water in their new projects, only to discover that store-bought produce is often of a higher quality, cheaper and require little to no effort in comparison.
Michelle Marais

Technically urban farming refers to the practice of growing food in urban areas to generate profit, but does it make financial and spatial sense?

Considerations in urban areas

The urban farmer has some key issues to consider with regards to land, water, soil, infrastructure, and marketing opportunities. Land is often the limiting factor.

What distinguishes urban farming from traditional farming practices, is that the idea of urban farming is often sold on a lesser need for land. Different types of land can be used, such as residential yards, urban spaces such as rooftops or parking lots, space on institutional land and vacant lots. Small portions of land tend to be more affordable and accessible but tend to limit the scalability of the enterprise.

While this may be feasible for a small family practicing subsistence farming, the production of large, marketable quantities of produce inevitably requires more space. Large open spaces in urban areas are both scarce and expensive, and most farming businesses do not justify the cost of acquiring large portions of land.

Urban farming can be done using a range of different processes, of which SPIN (small plot intensive) and hydroponic systems have become the most popular.

SPIN farming

Small plot intensive farming makes use of underutilised pieces of land in an urban area, to plant and harvest fresh produce with the intention of generating profit. This process makes use of soil as the planting medium and accommodates a range of fruits and vegetables. Soil and water quality are important production factors for the SPIN farmer.

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July 2020