Today, the U.S. population is over 316 million. In less than 40 years, the U.S. Census Bureau projects we’ll reach a national population of 450 million, a 42% increase. Where is this population going to live? The answer to that question appears relatively clear; the U.S. Census Bureau reports that America’s urban population increased by 12.1 percent from 2000 to 2010, outpacing the nation’s overall growth rate of 9.7 percent for the same period. Today, more than 82% of the U.S. lives in urban areas. 
Interesting questions result from this macro trend that may impact the future of commercial real estate.
How is this surging urban population to be fed? In example, traditionally, we’ve fumigated, hauled and distributed produce such as tomatoes from the Western U.S. food baskets 3,000 miles to New York City. But, does a tomato grown in California with a priority for breeding for appearance and the hardiness to travel long distances without rotting or damage provide a better product than a tomato grown by local New York City farmers focused on taste and nutritional value?
Does this change in demographic living patterns mean we’ll have to rethink our relationships between food production and food distribution?
Is there an adaptive re-use of economically, functionally or physically obsolete urban industrial buildings by owners for profitable urban farming?
5 Stone has been looking for solutions to these questions. And, in this article will try to not only answer them, but also to provoke further thinking.
New York City imports $1 billion in produce each year. This fact is a good starting point for our discussion. The bottom line for sustainable real estate investors is whether we can capture some of this market by creating urban farming tenancies that pay rent, generate local produce and create local jobs.
There is little debate that natural resources, fossil fuels, arable land and fresh water, (agriculture uses 70% of the U.S.’ fresh water) are made dearer by growing populations wanting to enter the middle class and the impact of Climate Change. In fact, the extreme drought in the Western half of the U.S. has already pushed food prices higher.
So we ask, are there methods to produce healthier crops that (i) are more nutritious and flavorful (ii) use no pesticides, herbicides fertilizers, or fungicides (iii) yield more abundantly and (iv) use less of a precious vanishing asset – clean fresh water?
5 Stone believes urban agriculture will create new ways to harvest value from adaptive reuse of physically, functionally, and economically obsolete light industrial warehouse space and/or their under-utilized rooftops in urban markets by encouraging Controlled Environment Agriculture (“CEA”) operators to become tenants. [Read more…]