Growing Space Solutions for Urban Farming

By Stuffey | May 16, 2019

Interest in urban farming is (ahem) growing. Farming in cities can not only improve food access, but it brings other environmental benefits too. Nevertheless, farmers are challenged with finding the space they need to grow their crops. High-density mobile shelving systems can help maximize space for the urban farmer.

An international group of researchers used Google’s Earth Engine software, and population, meteorological, and other datasets to estimate the impacts of urban agriculture. They projected benefits including:

  • Potential annual food production of 100–180 million tons
  • Energy savings ranging from 14 to 15 billion kilowatt hours
  • Nitrogen sequestration between 100,000 and 170,000 tons
  • Avoided storm water runoff between 45 and 57 billion cubic meters annually

The researchers further determined that, “if fully implemented in cities around the world, urban agriculture could produce as much as 180 million metric tons of food a year—perhaps 10 percent of the global output of legumes, roots and tubers, and vegetable crops.”

Researchers, scientists, urban planners, city leaders, environmentalists and, of course, farmers are all looking at the sustainability benefits that come in addition to the simple advantage of greater access to fresh local food. Yet, one inhibiting factor to urban farming is often the lack of open space. That’s where smart solutions to maximize growing space and support urban growing come in.

ActivRAC & Urban Farming

There are many different approaches to urban farming. According to a National Institute of Food and Agriculture-funded study, urban farmers are typically growing crops in soil in raised beds or container gardens, using closed-loop aquaponics system, vertical farming (farming within high rises or on vertical surfaces using technology) or relying on rooftop farming. The top yields were:

  • Fresh vegetables
  • Nursery items such as seedlings and herbs
  • Fresh fruits
  • Meat and poultry
  • Value-added products (including processed and prepared food, baked goods, preserves)
  • Milk & dairy
  • Honey
  • Fish

Yet one common challenge in urban farming is the limited access to growing space. Facing zoning regulations, city planning opposition and building code concerns, as well as limited access to water, these farmers cannot expand their operations. Plus, there is a lack of access to credit and capital too.

Affordable ActivRAC mobile shelving solutions can improve urban production practices and profitability. With this heavy-duty mobile storage system, stationary rows of shelving are mounted on carriages that move side-to-side on wheels and a rail system.

Using an ActivRAC Industrial Mobile Shelving System, an urban farmer or vertical grower can increase capacity per square foot in an existing space without costly expansion or disruption to daily activity. One moving aisle replaces multiple dedicated aisles, creating up to 100% more space for more racking or shelving, in the same footprint.

That means salvaging space that was being sucked up by crop shelving or racks in the past. The farming operation can now devote that space to:

  • Inventory fulfillment
  • New revenue-generating crops
  • Other value-added activities

Advantages of ActivRac Urban Farming

Yet added space isn’t the only benefit. In the national survey of American urban farmers, labor was also an issue. A well thought out layout of the urban farm’s production area allows for fast, easy inventory access by employees or forklifts. This efficiency boost can make it easier for farmers to do more with fewer people, which also helps profits.

Mobile multi-tiered food shelving systems address the inefficiency of standard growing tables. Strategically shelving crops for space optimization makes it easier for cultivators to address microclimate concerns. Plus, added space provides the plants with the room they need to grow healthy and pest-free.

Spacesaver’s ActiveRAC system eliminated wasted aisle space among growing racks for a Manhattan entrepreneurproviding high-value herbs and microgreens out of a Tribeca basement. FarmOne enjoys more growing space and also saves operating costs by requiring less energy to heat and cool the operation.

Supporting the Future of Urban Farming

While urban farming’s Gotham Greens’ co-founder Viraj Puri doubts a city “is going to be able to produce its entire food supply within city limits” with urban agriculture. But that doesn’t undermine the value of “bringing people closer to their food, and in making our cities more diverse and interesting and green.”

Patterson Pope can help urban farmers achieve these lofty goals while regaining space and increasing profits with ActivRAC mobile shelving. Find out more about our four types of industrial mobile shelving systems and how they can help vertical growers and urban farmers yield healthy crops.


About Stuffey

To say that Stuffey was made for this role would be an understatement. A life long hoarder, Stuffey understands how the Laws of Stuff can wreak havoc in the real world of an organization’s space. Now as part of his reformation, he is committed to passing on to you his secrets in our battle against the tyranny of STUFF.

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