I was wondering what you can actually do with urban agriculture. What I learned is that you are definitely not limited to traditional outdoor gardens or farms. There is untapped potential in the world of urban agriculture especially when urban agriculture revolves around adapting. From beekeeping to processing and the ABCs of options you can choose to take your brownfield. This post will hopefully give two out of the box ideas for your brownfield or roof top or where ever you find yourself.
If you were to go at it at your own (supposing you know your GAPs) it would be best to identify who are going to be your target customers. Who would like to contribute/ donate/ etc. to your farm project? Secondly seek out and engage with your community, get people involved and identify what the community would like and what the community would like to grow and brainstorm and network to get the plans off the ground. After this think who are you going to sell to? Are you going to sell to the community or are you going to going to sell to restaurants? Farmers market? Think about how you are going to make this plan profitable. Let us say you do not even have this planned because you still are not sure what you want to grow or produce in your brownfield. Well we see what you can do in this starting with beekeeping in urban agriculture.
According to UC ANR here is what you will be spending for a 1000 colony operation in dollars
- Hive Equipment
- 1,000 bottom boards @ $8 each $8,000
- 1,000 covers @ $8 each 8,000
- 2,000 deep boxes @ $12 each 24,000
- 20,000 deep frames @ $0.35-0.65 10,000
- 20,000 deep foundation @ $0.06 1,200
- 1,000 medium depth boxes @ $8 each 8,000
- 10,000 medium depth fames @ $0.40 each 4,000
- 10,000 medium depth foundation @ $0.40 4,000
- 100,000 frame eyelets @ $2.00 per 1,000 200
- 2,000 queen excluders (optional) $9.00 each 18,000
- 6,000 metal rabbets @ $0.08 each 480
- 50 fume boards @ $9.00 450
- 1 bee blower (optional) @ $325 each 250
- 75 gallons paint @ $16-21 per gallon 1,500
- 1 staple gun and compressor 500
- Bees 1,000 packages @ $25.00 25,000
- Honey Handling Equipment
- Automatic uncapper 1,700-3,000
- Frame conveyor 600
- Conveyor drip pan 250
- Cappings melter 1,000-2,000
- Extractor 1,900-7,800
- Settling tanks (each) 170-250
- Spin float (replaces melter) 3,300
- Honey sump 325-800
- Honey pump 170-190
- Flash heater (optional) 1,000
- Barrels (each) new: l6; used: 8
- Barrel truck 160-250
- Hand truck 125-525
- Glass jars (if not selling bulk honey) 17,300
- Bottling equipment (if not selling bulk honey) 940
- Flatbed trucks (each) 16-1800
- Bee booms (each) (mounted) 2,500
- Forklifts (each) new: 16-18,000; used: 8-10,000
- Pickups 14,000
- Warehouse 6,000
- Land @ $3,000/acre 20,000
- Rent (house and shop/year) 15,000-17,000
- Self-30,000 Help, full time, each 20,000
- Help, part time, each 1,630
- Utilities (year) 2,400
- Insurance varies
- Workman’s compensation, health insurance 13,000
Growing mushrooms is a relatively easy venture. Mushroom profitability is determined on your own knowledge of the growth of the strain of mushroom as well as how to maximize your production for max profitability. According to Small Biz Trends, you can still operate the grow and have a full-time job while harvesting a 25 pound per square foot every year. Luckily for us these farms are already all over the world and in the article from Milkwood.net we can see that farms in the UK, Austria, USA, and Australia have begun working on urban mushroom farming in different ways.
Growing Power in Milwaukee is growing in something other than coffee grounds as a medium. According to Milkwood:
- as space filling niches – the mushroom bags are both hung from the tops of the hoop houses, utilizing empty space, and the shiitake logs are hung at various levels above their aquaponics systems, with the shiitake logs being dunked in the aquaponics ponds periodically for force a flush of mushrooms from the logs. (no image available)
- occasional product niche – when the various batches of mushrooms are ready, they are added to the veggie boxes and market stall, and when they are not ready, they are not.
For oyster mushrooms they use pasteurized straw instead of coffee bean wastes as a substrate.
Now why are coffee beans coming up so often in this section? Well coffee bean wastes are readily available and free in many places as many recycle them such as cafes. They are also full of nutrients that mushrooms especially for oyster mushrooms, they are full of mycelium and oyster mushrooms love it as well as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, phosphorus, and iron. Also, and I think most importantly coffee grounds come pre-sterilized. Sterilization makes for a contamination prevention and for healthier and prevent growing something else.
Bradley, K. (2016, May 30). Urban Mushroom Farming – 4 Great (yet small) Enterprises. Retrieved from Milkwood: https://www.milkwood.net/2016/05/30/growing-mushrooms-city/
LIV. (2019, November 12). The Impact of Cannabis Cultivation on Marijuana Farming. Retrieved from Robotics and Automation News: https://roboticsandautomationnews.com/2019/11/12/the-impact-of-cannabis-cultivation-on-marijuana-farming/26661/
Mussen, E. C. (1994, March/April). Starting a Small Beekeeping Operation. Retrieved from Univeristy of California Davis Small Farms: http://sfp.ucdavis.edu/pubs/SFNews/archives/94032/
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To provide inspiration for how urban beekeeping and urban mushroom farming could look like, below I will provide two real life examples. Both of the farms are vastly unique from each other and provide an example of how these types of urban farms thrive in an urban setting.
The first farm actually isn’t really a farm but a provider of apiaries, they are Honey Bee Good Apiaries (http://www.honeybeegoode.net/). An apiary is simply a place where bees are kept. At Honey Bee Good Apiaries Lloyd and Ashley Hardrick, who are the apiculturists and owners, supply urban farms around Atlanta, Georgia with hives. Their mission is to bring honey bees to the urban environment to benefit home gardeners and urban farmers who need pollinators for their fruiting plants. In addition to supplying hives to farmers, Honey Bee Good also harvests honey and honeycomb and sells products created by them. In a great podcast interview done of Llyod Hardrick (https://www.urbanfarm.org/2018/12/25/410-lloyd-hardrick/) he explains that another one of their missions is to educate their community on the benefits of bees, including the health benefits of honey and honeycomb, the process of pollination, and how we can keep bees healthy. Lloyd explains how important the educational aspect of their work is and how many of the people he encounters have never tasted 100% real honey before and leave their experience with him with a new appreciation for real honey and for bees.
Another example is an urban mushroom farm in Exeter, UK called GroCycle Urban Mushroom Farm (https://grocycle.com/urban-mushroom-farm/). This farm utilizes the growing medium of coffee grounds as mentioned above. Grocycle works by providing local coffee sellers with buckets to collect their wasted coffee grounds in. When the buckets are full, GroCycle comes around and collects the bucket, replacing them with empty buckets. The grounds are then used to fill hanging bags which will be used to grow their mushrooms. These bags are housed inside of an abandoned building in Exeter. The mushrooms they produce are then sold locally to restaurants and markets within the city. By using an abandoned building and the waste product of coffee grounds, GroCycle maintains low operation costs and turns a great profit. GroCycle also has an educational goal as they provide online learning resources about mushroom farming. They also created their own at-home mushroom growing kits (https://shop.grocycle.com/) to allow people to learn hands-on about mushroom growing.