Picture from http://verticalgardenswa.com.au/
If you are a start up and think you are solving urban farming read this.
George Irwin is the founder and President of Green Living Technologies International LLC (GLTi), a privately held company that manufactures Green Living Walls, Green Living Roofs.
George writes in a recent article on a greenroof.com that
‘Roof top farms and urban agriculture is not profitable! I said it again, NOT profitable’.
” I know countless stories of friends and colleagues who are continuously funding their own nonprofit, CSA, urban farm for the love and betterment of others. What they don’t realize is they need to fund themselves before they can help others” .
Urban farms are being touted as the panacea to urban living. But George is adamant “Since they won’t say it, I will, again. Roof top farming and urban agriculture is not profitable……….. and for a few reasons. They are not making ends meet and the budgets balance by growing and selling produce 8 months a year, locally, at a premium, competing with other large scale farmers for the same consumer during the same season, there are your unknown environmental variables and inconsistent yields, it is a model that cannot compete with mass produced farming”
George continues ‘Using renewable energy, replenishing soil, partnerships with university and corporations won’t make your produce more valuable to the consumer’.
George then announces the arrival of the ‘GLTi Vertical Farm’. It is ‘scalable, cash positive and profitable within 90 days of the initial build out with a return on investment in less than 15 months.”
“The initial 4000 square foot model allows for 15 full time employees extending living wages, paid internships, education programs for learners and at risk populations at no additional cost. We do not rely on external streams of income to be profitable. GLTi is the first and proven leader in “From Wall to Table” and our exchange program brings “Living Produce” directly into the restaurant! Your food is still growing seconds before it is served! You can’t get fresher or more organic than that!”
Am confused George ?! Can Urban Farms be profitable?
GEORGE: The variables point to geographic location. There is not enough room here for me to expand my perspective yet the numbers and the model do not work if you are growing seasonally. If you are able to grow outdoors 12 months of the year, assuming we are talking roof top farming, there is the threat and variables no different than that of a traditional farm. Seasonal growers, like those here in the Northeast in the US are subject to shorter growing seasons and competing for the same customer as the larger local farmer. Really they can only grow 6 MAYBE 8 months of the year without greenhouses or extended season hoop houses. Supply and demand low the cost of produce and the inability to earn profits and margins to thrive. I don’t want to write a dissertation on the use of fertilizer vs compost because I really should write another book to address the matter. As for a solution….our own model is virtually perfect. You have to grow in a controlled environment and control your environmental variables. We are so calculated that the monitoring system injects our organic solution in relation to the amount of light provided to the plants. Lighting is everything! Less light less solution, more light more solution….all this is computer controlled and duly note we can say our bioSoil is 100% organic. I can’t expand on our own systems and set up but I can tell you I don’t know of anyone who can grow 50,000 lbs of basil a year in a 2000 square foot space organically and deliver it still alive in the compost it was conceived in. To one up our production this is at a 10′ height…..for every 1′ we expand upward we increase yields by 10%…you can do the math.
George so Urban Farming can work? Using your solution?
GEORGE: It can … We have spent the better part of 8 years developing a vertical system … Not to be confused w a vertical product… Our product is part of a bigger “System”… And it’s done in without hydroponics…. You mention Urban Ag… “Urban” defines a location … Clarifying terminology we are talking inner city.