The garden of reason (or is it treason?)

Urban farming is here to stay, and that's a good thing, isn't it?

For some time now, various cities have been experimenting with vertical farming, rooftop farming, and even basement farming with LED lighting. Now it’s maturing into a fully-fledged industry, just like fish farming.

Farming without land, or even soil, sounds like a contradiction in terms, but hydroponics is not a new idea – it’s just become more profitable. Being physically close to the consumers is the ultimate competitive advantage.

Beyond the need for land, traditional farming has to contend with the high cost of inputs and the ever increasing cost of labour. The major risk for farmers lies in the vagaries of the weather, costly to mitigate, and always uncertain.

For indoor agriculture the big costs are infrastructure and automated systems. Labour is specialized and robotics play an important role, while weather is irrelevant. It’s a different business model entirely. Just like Uber.

Using bioengineered microbes and modified plants, basement farmers are turning out novel varieties of fruit and vegetables, without seasonal shortages. Purple potatoes and crimson kale are a big hit with the foodies this year, and growers can quickly adapt to fickle fashion, like heart-shaped tomatoes for Valentine’s.

Silicon Valley type innovation means city agri-scientists can experiment and iterate, to discover what captures the imagination of their local market, and turns into a viral success. It’s exponential thinking, that’s upsetting the applecart.

Conventional farmers are fighting back with precision farming using drones, big data, and robot tractors, while specializing in dairy, meat and land-hungry crops.

But perhaps the greatest advantage for urban farming is the produce doesn’t have to be trucked to market at great expense. The restaurant and store are just upstairs!

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

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