Urban farming is best described as growing plants and rearing animals for food and other uses within a town or city environment. This farming provides direct access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat products to the communities in and around the locale.
There are diverse ways to produce food in an urban environment. The type of farming you select will depend on income levels, food sources available, location, and other factors.
Our detailed guide lists some of the common types of urban farming. Read on to learn more about these farming methods and their tradeoffs to help you decide if you’re considering going into urban farming.
9 Types of Urban Farming
Some of the common types of urban farming include:
Vertical farming is a type of farming where crops are grown on top of each other.
Traditionally, crops are grown in horizontal rows—however, this takes up a lot of space. In urban setups, you may not have enough space to plant horizontally.
Plants are commonly integrated into other structures like shipping containers or skyscrapers. This type of farming is also practiced indoors, allowing you to control the environmental conditions to ensure the plants flourish.
How Vertical Farming Works?
Vertical farming involves four critical areas-physical layouts, lighting, growing medium, and sustainability features.
The goal of vertical farming is to produce more food for every square meter. That’s done by cultivating crops in stacked layers.
Natural and artificial lights are used to maintain preferred light levels to ensure the success of the plants.
You also need a growing medium. Vertical farming doesn’t use soil; it uses aquaponic, aeroponic, or hydroponic growing mediums. Vertical farming is considered sustainable as it uses less water and offsets the energy cost of farming.
- Allows you to grow more crops
- Uses less water
- Plants are not affected by the weather
- Less exposure to disease and chemicals
- Crops can grow year-round
- Labour intensive
- It might be costly to build and maintain the structures.
Shipping Container Farming
Shipping container farming is another type of urban farming that involves planting crops in a refurbished container. This innovative farming method uses aeroponics and hydroponics.
Setting up a container is easy. These containers can also be sealed completely to ensure that your plants are protected from pests and changes in weather.
How Container Farming Works
You must buy a container and the required software and hardware to set it up. A specialist team may also be required to manage the container boxes.
Farmers can opt to specialize in one crop or diversify depending on their needs. For various crops, you’ll need to build a hydroponic farm. Solar energy systems can also be added to avoid overreliance on electrical energy and cushion you against outages.
Pros of Container Farming
- Ideal for an urban setting due to the container sizes
- Refurbished containers are cheap
- Year-round growing season
Cons of Container Farming
- The upfront cost of setting up is high
- Requires separate sources of light and water
- It can be challenging to control the growth environment
- Structural integrity isn’t guaranteed for repurposed containers
Rooftop farming is where you create gardens on your rooftop and plant crops in containers and pots. This type of farming is primarily done in apartment buildings.
You can opt for an established setup that consists of constructed garden beds with automatic watering systems or a simple setup with a few plants in pots. These gardens share some similarities with green roofs.
How Rooftop Farming Works
Rooftop gardens can either be fully planted green roofs with soil covering the roof or plants in the soil. Alternatively, you can opt to set up raised beds and containers. Using containers is preferred for rooftop gardens because they are flexible, affordable, portable, and lighter weight.
Plants that thrive in rooftop gardens include shade-tolerant plants like lettuces (with the right sun protection), drought-tolerant plants like evergreen trees, and sun-loving plants like tomatoes and marigolds.
Pros of Rooftop Gardens
- Ideal for limited spaces
- Allows capturing and harvesting of rainwater
- Reduces energy costs
- Rooftop gardens insulate against cold and heat
Cons of Rooftop Gardens
- These gardens require costly drainage systems
- It can create a habitat for reptiles if not cleaned properly
- Exposed to adverse weather conditions
- Limited to containers
Backyard gardens are another way to grow crops on your property. These farms are also known as market gardens.
The best part of these gardens is that you don’t have to own the land. You can rent space in your neighborhood or grow food in another’s backyard in exchange for a part of the harvest.
Space is at a premium when working with a backyard garden. You’ll need to grow compact crops, given the limited space.
- Allows you to profit from unused space
- It can benefit the whole community
- Forced to plant compact crops
Aquaponics involves the interaction of two ideas, hydroponics, the soilless plant culture, and aquaculture, which deals with fish farming. Plants get fertilized from the animals’ waste, while the plants clean the water that goes back to the fish.
You cannot use harsh chemicals, herbicides, or pesticides in this type of farming. That guarantees that the food and fish produced are fresh and free of any harmful chemicals.
How Does Aquaponics Work?
An aquaponic system consists of a fish aquarium or tank, a bed for plants, a water pump for water distribution, and a drainage method using pipes to remove the water and put it back into the fish tank.
As earlier stated, aquaponics works in a symbiotic relationship where fish excretion acts as an organic fertilizer for plants. In contrast, the plants filter and purify the water used by the fish.
Pros of Aquaponics
- Eco-friendly type of farming
- Saves water
- Provides a high level of nutrient utilization
- Easy to maintain and affordable
- It can be installed in an urban setting since it’s space efficient.
Cons Of Aquaponics
- Limited to the number of crops you can grow
- This may lead to high consumption of electricity
- Startup costs can be high
- The chance of your aquaponic system failing is there if you fail to meet the set conditions.
Hydroponics is a Latin word that translates to working water. It’s the art of gardening without using soil.
Traditionally, plants are grown on soil. However, the roots always look for proper nutrients to support growth in this setup. You may not have the right soil to grow your desired plants in an urban setting.
Hydroponics allows you to cultivate plants in nutrient-filled water, which is more versatile and effective than using soil and practicing irrigation.
How Does Hydroponics Work?
A hydroponic system consists of a growing media, air pumps/stones, and net pots to hold the plant.
Hydroponic systems work by giving you control over environmental conditions like pH balance and temperature. It also allows you to determine plants’ exposure to water and nutrients. The system works in a way that provides plants with what they require when needed it.
Plant growth accelerates as most of the environmental risk factors are reduced. There are different types of hydroponic systems. Some use a soil substitute like peat moss, clay pebbles, or aged bark, while others have plant roots dangling in the water.
Pros of Hydroponics
- Water efficient
- It uses less space, ideal for urban settings
- Provides high yields
- Eco-friendly as it doesn’t involve the use of chemicals
Cons of Hydroponics
- It relies heavily on technology.
- High initial costs
- It may expose plants to waterborne diseases.
Street landscaping involves different landscaping streets for various uses. For example, you could create community gardens that people around the neighborhood tend to.
This landscaping provides fresh food, beautifies the environment, and purifies the air. These community gardens are found in neighborhoods, downtown rooftops, or housing complexes.
- Provides food to the neighborhood
- Beautifies the surroundings and creates a clean environment
- Experienced farmers determine the choice of crops and harvesting.
Forest gardening involves growing gardens in urban forests. The environment creates a favorable climate and location for crop production. This gardening encourages afforestation and fights against global warming in urban settings.
How Does Forest Gardening Work?
After planting your preferred plants, nature covers most of the other parts by controlling pests, fertilization, weeding, and more in the forest garden. You’ll only need to cut back overgrown plants and mulch to provide a conducive environment.
This type of urban farming requires lots of maintenance, and you’ll have to experience different crops to find one that works well.
- Provides food security
- Functions as a no-work garden
- Helps to reclaim unsuitable land
- It may be costly to set up and account for labor
- Crops may take time to mature
- Some forest gardens require extra maintenance
Bees play a critical role in our ecosystem. They help with pollination, which is essential if you’re a gardener and plan on growing your fruit and vegetables. Bees contribute to a higher yield.
Urban beekeeping or backyard beekeeping is an excellent way to boost local bee populations as you grow your garden.
However, this type of urban farming also comes with certain restrictions. Please find out the requirements for setting up a beehive in your locality before getting started. You also need to find a suitable location with a shaded spot, wind break, and a water source.
Pros of Urban Beekeeping
- Allows you to grow a biodiverse garden
- It produces fresh honey
- Promote the growth of healthy plants
Cons of Urban Beekeeping
- Startup and operational expenses can be high.
- It may not be safe if you’re allergic to bee stings.
These are some common types of urban farming. The above methods increase food security and land use, purify the air, and create a sense of belonging. Be sure to research the type of farming you’d like to pursue to guarantee success.