Now, companies are popping up to help urban farmers get their facilities up and running. One Brooklyn-based company, Agritecture Consulting, helps people and organizations that want to start their own vertical farms to conduct market research and economic analyses, and to design and engineer the farm plans. The company has successfully completed more than a dozen projects to date, creating farms around the world, including some in the cramped confines of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The benefits of urban farming practices extend beyond the tangible aspects of growing food in underserved areas — there’s also a fortunate side effect of cultivating community. That’s a big draw for organizations, including Urban Organics and Agritecture Consultants.

Growing Communities

Urban Organics opened a new facility this past summer. It’s much larger than the organization’s other locations, and could provide more than 124,700 kilograms (about 275,000 pounds) of fresh fish and nearly 215,500 kilograms (more than 475,000 pounds) of produce to the nearby area each year.

The former brewing complex in which the new farm is located is undergoing a revitalization, adding artists’ condos and even a food hall, according to a press release emailed to Futurism. Haider is excited about the potential of the new facility and the impact it will have on the developing neighborhood. “Not only are we creating some good-paying, quality jobs with some medical benefits, but these are jobs that just didn’t exist in the area prior to Urban Organics. And these are the things that excite us,” he said.

This winning formula of bringing food and jobs to these areas can help build underserved communities. “Once that’s done, we get to go out to identify the next markets and then do it all over again,” Haider said.

Empowering individuals to get into urban farming can build community, too. Henry Gordon-Smith, the co-founder and managing director of Agritecture, has a side project called Plus.farm, a do-it-yourself resource website for individuals and small groups looking to start urban farms of their own. It’s his passion project, his “labor of love,” he told Futurism. “This is my way of not-so-subtly democratizing some of the best practices. It’s a great way for people to create their own approaches, which is what I really want to see.” The site allows farmers to come up with their own hacks — better lights, better sensors, better growing techniques — and share them on the site’s forum. That’s how an ancient practice like farming continues to improve with modern tools.

Farms of the Future

As people continue to study and tweak urban farming practices, we will continue to learn more about how they can benefit the areas surrounding them and the greater global community. Data on how urban farms directly affect their local communities may compel lawmakers to support and invest more in urban farms.

Gordon-Smith has planned another side project to this effect: an entire building or neighborhood to test urban farming technologies while gathering data. Though the location has not yet been decided, Gordon-Smith has already received a $2 million commitment from Brooklyn borough president Eric L. Adams; he has also taken his proposal to the New York City Council. The proposal is waiting for consideration from the Committee on Land Use, and there is no indication of when it will be decided.

Vertical farming, and urban agriculture in general, could be a significant boon for areas with the resources to invest, feeding residents and bolstering the local economy. Still, it’s important to know that urban agriculture is not a singular solution to solve a massive problem like helping people access enough nutritious food. Gauthier, the Princeton urban farming expert, points out that there are a lot of important crops that simply cannot be grown indoors, at least not yet. “We’ll probably never grow soybeans, wheat, or maize indoors,” he said. “Vertical farming is not the solution for solving hunger across the world. It’s not the solution, but it is certainly part of the solution.”

Other efforts to combat world hunger grant people in poor nations more economic freedom by giving them lines of credit, or instituting basic income policies, like those being tested in Kenya. Education, social change, and female empowerment are all social initiatives that can help more people access the food they need to sustain themselves and their families.

Urban farms have the potential to change the world’s agricultural landscape. Granted, we’re probably not going to see a planet of supercities in which all farming is done in high-rise buildings. But urban farms can bring greater yields in smaller areas, increase access to healthy options in urban food deserts, and mitigate the environmental impact of feeding the world. That seems like enough of a reason to continue to develop and expand these transformative farming practices.