When you think of a farm, you think of a classic rural image like the one above. But with the emergence of urban farming, the idea of farmland is changing. Older cities like Cleveland and Detroit are starting to use land in the inner city area for farming purposes, and the urban farming trend is starting to grow.
Old MacDonald had a farm, but probably not on an abandoned city lot tended by a farmer from Burma and supported by some of the top restaurants in town.
Cleveland, however, has such unconventional growing places. After only a few years of operation, they are bringing home surprising harvests.
Taut-skinned eggplant and fragrant parsley are being snipped off a row and, within minutes, walked three blocks to Flying Fig, Great Lakes Brewing Co. and other popular dining spots in the city’s Ohio City neighborhood. Off East 55th Street, a flower and vegetable farm provides cherished jobs for folks with developmental disabilities.
A few forgotten acres in the Kinsman neighborhood are now a green training ground for farming entrepreneurs. And a vineyard in Hough hasn’t made its first bottle of wine yet, but the vines look good, and the first cork is expected to pop next year.
Check out the whole article and you can see how an economic ecosystem is being built around these farms. The potential is staggering. It’s also interesting to read how the local restaurants are supporting these efforts by using these farms as a source of fresh fruits and vegetables, and you even have Great Lakes Brewery growing hops for their craft beers.
This is a very encouraging story. Serious early-stage investors are taking a close look at what many are calling Agriculture 2.0. Trends like urban farming have tremendous potential, and innovative trends like that can accelerate with the backing of Silicon Valley.
“Sustainable agriculture is a space that looks as big or bigger than clean tech,” said Paul Matteucci, a venture capitalist with U.S. Venture Partners in Menlo Park, Calif. “Historically, we have not seen a ton of entrepreneurial activity in agriculture, but we are beginning to see it now, and the opportunities are huge.”
A catch-all phrase for environmentally beneficial farming, sustainable agriculture has long been the province of organic enthusiasts. But venture capitalists say a growing awareness of conventional agriculture’s contribution to climate change and concerns over its consumption of water and energy are creating markets for technological innovation to minimize those effects.
The Johnny Appleseed of what is being called Agriculture 2.0 is a 33-year-old former Wall Street investment banker named Janine Yorio. Her New York firm, NewSeed Advisors, brings together sustainable agriculture entrepreneurs and investors.
At the Four Seasons hotel in East Palo Alto, Calif., last month, NewSeed Advisors attracted a crowd of well-dressed investors from some of Silicon Valley’s top venture capital firms. They packed a ballroom to hear entrepreneurs pitch start-ups developing everything from nontoxic pesticides and analytical tools for soil analysis to indoor urban farming systems.
I think the urban farming trend in particular has huge potential, particularly in Rust Belt cities like Detroit and Cleveland.