As the old saying goes, if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. A little bit of research ahead of time can save you quite a bit of wasted time, effort, and money. This advice definitely applies to urban farming. Here are four key factors you have to consider before starting your urban farming project.
1. You must be willing to go into farming
Urban farming is exactly that – farming. This means cultivating plants at a larger scale than gardening. Farming involves more than cultivating larger areas. You’ll also have to scale up the inputs of your farm. Inputs range from fertilizer to pest control to weed control. This is heavy duty stuff.
Farming also involves longer term commitments than gardening. To get a positive ROI on the resources, time, and effort you put into urban gardening, you have to stick with your venture for a far longer time than a typical backyard gardening operation.
2. Always keep ROI in mind
Your urban farm decision will always have an impact on the return you get for all the time, effort, and money you put into your venture. This can be either negative or positive.
If you don’t use ROI as a guiding principle in your decisions, it is too easy for you to throw good money after bad and before you know it, your urban farm has become a money pit. Worse yet, it also becomes a black hole as far as your personal time goes.
ROI must guide you on the following key decisions:
– what to plant
– when to plant
– irrigation options
– recycling options
– where to sell your produce
3. Full automation is not a slam dunk
Labor is not exactly cheap in urban settings. While it’s easy to think that you should automate as much as possible, this option comes with its own challenges. A fully automated urban outfit can burn a hole through your pocketbook very quickly and it can take a long time to recoup your investment-assuming you can recoup it all.
Make sure you automate only to the point it makes financial sense. You might end up wasting money on expensive machinery that ends up pushing your price up too high.
4. Always keep local produce preferences in mind
In addition to figuring out which produce sells best in your local community, see if you can specialize or distinguish yourself from your competitors. Any little bit of distinction can mean a great deal when it comes to meeting your ROI targets.
For example, if most other local farmers sell non-organic produce, you might want to consider selling organic produce to gain a competitive advantage. Also, if ‘local’ farmers actually truck in their produce, you might want to consider community farmers’ markets or outlets much closer to your actual urban farm location.
Keep the four key factors in mind as you plan out your urban farm. It’s one thing to get excited about urban farming, pulling it off successfully is another thing entirely.