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Urban farming is helping supply the growing demand for local produce, according to Food Marketing Institute research showing that 29 percent of shoppers nationwide want retailers to prioritize supporting the local food economy.
This new wave of local farming involves large-scale greenhouse facilities, where controlled environments cut down on production time and shorten the distance between farm and table. Multimillion-dollar companies like New York City-based Gotham Greens and BrightFarms are bringing these methods to once-empty city lots and rooftops in urban settings.
During an FMI webinar in March 2016, Fresh Foods Food Marketing Institute vice president Rick Stein described how some upscale retailers, such as Whole Foods and Rouses, are already experimenting with their own rooftop gardens. In Germany, Metro stores feature walk-in high-tech gardens for growing herbs and other vegetables with tiny in-store footprints and complete transparency. In the future, hydroponic vertical farming may take the dirt out of farming and produce more food in vertically stacked layers or on vertical surfaces in high-ceiling buildings, such as older warehouses.
According to Eater.com, some critics consider energy-guzzling big business greenhouses less local than the farm stand down the road. Others see these high-tech techniques as a natural evolution in modern farming. FMI points out that shorter supply chains bring products to shelves and tables within 24 hours of harvest, which almost guarantees they will be longer-lasting than other produce.
- A diverse supply chain for produce needs
- In-store signs to let consumers know how far ingredients have traveled
- Herbs and micro-greens grown in-house if space allows