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Growing Up with Wellness and Sustainability

LA Urban Farms

3. Good Health and Well-Being 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 13. Climate Action

Overview

LA Urban Farms is a Los Angeles-based urban farm company that sells aeroponic "Tower Gardens," which produce organic, nutrient-dense, and delicious food. By cultivating plants in an air or mist environment without soil, the company enables individuals and organizations to grow food in small spaces free from bugs or pesticides while conserving water. With the product's feasible and sustainable processes, LA Urban Farms seeks to inspire "people to grow their own food which is good for their body and the planet."


Authors

Juan Carlos Roxas

Juan Carlos Roxas

Bridget Sullivan

Bridget Sullivan

Genaro Camacho

Genaro Camacho

Giovana Poisl

Giovana Poisl

Amanda Sarkisian

Amanda Sarkisian

School

Loyola Marymount University

Loyola Marymount University

Professor

Jeff Thies

Jeff Thies

Innovation

LA Urban Farms sells vertical "Tower Gardens," which produce organic, nutrient-dense and delicious food for individuals and organizations within a local community. As LA Urban Farms became a business, there was already a patent for the aeroponic process of growing plants. This process emphasizes vertical growth in an air or mist environment without soil, allowing plants to absorb oxygen and critical nutrients conveniently. For the aeroponic technology process to succeed, a food-grade approved plastic reservoir with 20 gallons of water and 13 essential minerals is required to aid plant growth. From this reservoir, a low-wattage submersible pump delivers the nutrient solution to the top. As it reaches the top, the solution is then cascaded down the tower until it reaches the reservoir, creating a recirculating loop for this vertical "garden."

The sustainable design of the "Tower Gardens" distinguishes itself from traditional commercial produce farming practices and home gardening methods. For one, the tower's vertical orientation allows for better use of space. Specifically, Wendy Coleman, founder of LA Urban Farms, stated, "what can be grown in an acre of land or 43,560 square feet horizontally can be grown in just 4,300 square feet by growing up vertically." Additionally, the "Tower Gardens" consume 90% less water than conventional farms. Urban agriculture, including LA Urban Farm's "Tower Gardens," combats climate change as locally-grown food does not require much transportation. The closed-loop nature of the tower's nutrient delivery system entails minimal input, therefore reducing unnecessary waste garnered from additional critical resources such as water and electricity. The plants are noticeably arranged in sections with vertical farming, eliminating the likelihood of harmful bugs common to soil-based horizontal farms. Lastly, pesticide use is also entirely removed because of the soilless nature of the "Tower Gardens," ensuring chemical-free produce that is safe for consumption.


With the benefit and convenience brought about by LA Urban Farm's use of aeroponics and vertical farming, the company commits to a social and environment-based mission of being a leader in the local food-growing movement. They also aspire to become an example of community based model. As the "Tower Gardens" makes organic food accessible to a rapidly increasing urban population, LA Urban Farms empowers people to grow their own food which is healthier for themselves and the environment. One aim is to help "more and more people continue to develop a personal connection to how their food is grown." Their overall mission and dream is to have the future of agriculture “nourish the people who grow it, the people who consume it, and all other beings on the planet.” Lastly, LA Urban Farms is made up of passionate, experienced leaders who have notably continued to pursue this forward-thinking mission and strengthening the merits of this company's solution.

Growing Up with Wellness and Sustainability

Inspiration

LA Urban Farms' "Tower Gardens'' was a result of technological potential and personal passion. It takes inspiration from a Disney exhibit at the park's Epcot Center called "The Land." The exhibit was a greenhouse where founder Wendy Coleman noted that "over 100 different types of food crops" were grown hydroponically, an early iteration of the tower's current aeroponic process. She stressed how visitors have expressed great interest in setting up similar vertical gardens in their backyards and establishing their urban farms with similar technology; the potential rooted in a fundamental cultivation principle springboarded the development process of the "Tower Gardens."

The patent developer for vertical farming technology was Tim Blank, who spearheaded Epcot Center's "The Land" attraction. Currently, Tim Blank is still a partner in "spreading the vision of urban farming" through the "Tower Gardens." In his twelve years with Disney as the exhibit's Chief Horticulturist and Greenhouse Manager, Tim conducted hydroponic research for various government agencies where he discovered a "new layer of understanding in hydroponic science and how to get better nutrition into the plant." These contributed to a critical aspect of the tower's aeroponic-influenced design. His research notably led to the development of the nutrient solution serving as "plant food." As a result, Wendy and her team could identify the main minerals required for plant life and those that support plant and human health. These breakthroughs strengthened the current possibilities of the "Tower Garden."

The company's "Tower Gardens" also pays tribute to Wendy's personal experience towards the growing trend of sustainability. She enthusiastically noted how her daughter Jessica's major in Sustainability and Environmental Awareness led to the idea of sustainability being "on [her] radar." One day, Wendy was on her way to buy some pillows, and she noticed vertical farms growing right in a cafe parking lot. She was amazed by the idea of a vertical farm and decided to buy one for her daughter. This purchase eventually led to starting LA Urban Farms alongside Jessica. Two years and many "Tower Gardens" later, the company has become Wendy's passion, especially with the uplifting joy "to grow [their] own food" and know that it is something family and friends can enjoy in their own homes.


Overall impact

LA Urban Farms has solidified its meaningful impact on the local Los Angeles community in the few years since its inception. The vertical, soilless, energy-efficient, and chemical-free nature of the company's aeroponic "Tower Gardens" have proven that people can affordably access nutritious food right at home or at a convenient place within their community. More than just a vibrant addition to an area that incentivises community-building, the vertical "garden" has likewise fostered an individual's mindful connection towards food and reconsider current unsustainable, pollution-heavy practices within the food supply chain.

The community-based outcome brought about by LA Urban Farms "Tower Gardens" can be accounted for by the team's introspective look at the broader issues surrounding population growth, food supply, and climate change. In realising the possibility of "Tower Gardens" to address these looming implications— particularly the fundamental advantages of vertical farms relative to traditional food growing processes — the team has driven themselves to successfully coordinate with experts and local communities to seek what is possible towards at-risk, underserved areas. With the additional informative web pages, virtual support, and Green Ambassador programs, the company has taken a bottoms-up approach to create its innovation.


LA Urban Farm's countless partnerships indicate their product's steadfast commitment to solving a potential crisis alongside its profound vision of being a leader in the local food-growing movement. The company has successfully partnered with local universities, large commercial properties, and even major clients such as Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, who had such towers installed at his official residence. With the warm community reception towards the company's innovation, partners Wendy Coleman and Jennifer Crane rightfully highlight the growth in "businesses and people reaching out to grow their own food." This growth in business and increase in community curiosity further solidifies the transformative nature of the product and the company at large.


Business benefit

LA Urban Farms' "Tower Gardens" presents a unique and daunting opportunity to feed a growing population slated to "reach over 9 billion people by the year 2050." Founder and partner Wendy Coleman realized that the elements of vertical farming drew pathways that help reduce such burden and ensure food access for everyone. The founder even maintained a personal connection with the issue-turned-opportunity, stating the "thrilling" feeling of stepping outside and "[harvesting] their own spinach, arugula, and lettuces" for meals such as smoothies, make salads, and grilled vegetables. From there, she shared her backyard passion with friends and family.

The fundamental principles behind LA Urban Farms' "Tower Garden" can be said to have catalyzed the company's growth by enabling a more profound appreciation towards the breakthroughs in changing how people produce and consume food. The long-term potential of the "Tower Gardens" encouraged Wendy to understand the technology behind vertical farming, leading to a fruitful meeting with hydroponics and vertical farming expert Tim Blank. Equipped with a solid knowledge base, her partnership with Jennifer Crane and other new team members moved forward with developing the first aeroponic rooftop farm on a Los Angeles-based commercial office building.

With the first farm yielding over 1,000 edible plants, Wendy and her team reconnected with the vertical farm opportunity by closely engaging with interested local chefs and restaurants. This initiative in what Jennifer calls "increasing farm visibility" validated the viability of the actual "Tower Garden" while fostering its social and environmental impact.


Social and environmental benefit

LA Urban Farms' "Tower Gardens" help resolve the consequences of unsustainable resources associated with traditional agriculture. The tower's versatile design using minimal land and water without pesticides means that individuals and organizations can easily set up a dependable nutritious food source in unlikely places, such as rooftops, alleys, and hallways. In offering increased access to healthy, locally grown, and culturally appropriate food sources, the towers became a response towards food and livelihood insecurity. Wendy and Jennifer have noted that such "gardens" particularly enable growing and sharing food in "disinvested and underserved neighborhoods," wherein finding affordable fruits and vegetables remains a challenging endeavor. They also pointed out that such projects can often provide job training and jumpstart food entrepreneurship, such as cooperation with NGO The Los Angeles Mission. With its ability to feed and support a local area, the "Vertical Garden" towers now add a sense of community. Urban farming initiatives such as these "Vertical Garden" towers add and preserve green space in cities, which allow neighbors to come together, strengthen bonds, and build community cohesion.

In a more personal dimension, LA Urban Farms' innovation concerning growing food enables a sense of mindfulness and appreciation towards it. In watching produce grow and valuing the journey towards the plate, Wendy and Jennifer noted that a change in "your whole mindset about food" occurs. Consumers may choose to buy locally grown food from farmers or support small restaurants with local seasonal offerings.

The ability of LA Urban Farms "Tower Gardens" to deepen the connection between people and food entails a positive environmental impact. By growing their own food with said tower, or even traditionally in the soil, and choosing to support local food sources, one can ideally do away with preservatives, pesticides, and costly transportation methods. Wendy and Jennifer noted that "the more food has to travel to get to our plates," the more it "loses valuable nutrition and uses valuable resources along the way." With the current issues concerning soil degradation, chemical pollution, water usage, and greenhouse gases in light of urban population growth, the company's innovation— and the idea of sustainably growing food in critical areas— become more significant.


Interviews

Wendy Coleman, Founder

Jennifer Crane, Partner

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LA Urban Farms

LA Urban Farms

Los Angeles, CA, US

Business Website: https://laurbanfarms.com

Year Founded: 2019

Number of Employees: 11 to 50

LA Urban Farms is an urban farm company that seeks to inspire "people to grow their own food which is good for their body and the planet." The company sells aeroponic "Tower Gardens," which empowers people to produce organic, nutrient-dense, and delicious food in small spaces without the fear of bugs, pesticides, and heavy water consumption.