Urban farming can be challenging for obvious reasons — mainly, the lack of space and soil. But Farm8, a South Korean startup, is turning those challenges into advantages by hydroponically growing vegetables in a subway station.
Farm8 has been operating out of the Sangdo Station in Seoul since 2019, growing microgreens, flowers, and sprouts out of its Metro Farm. The farm is operated by an automated tech network, which controls the LED lights that help the plants grow.
Having only 4,241 square feet of space to work with — less than one-tenth of an acre — means the Metro Farm must be ultraefficient. Farm8 says that it is 40 times as efficient as a traditional farm. The farm produces 66 pounds of fresh vegetables every day.
The vegetables are then sold to customers in salads and smoothies at an adjacent cafe.
“We want to change the perception of farming,” Lee Hwang-myung, the project’s senior manager, said. “We want to encourage people to see agriculture as something not of the past but as part of the future.”
The project is successful enough that Farm8 has now expanded into four other subway stations.
The practice of growing food on tiny patches of land is not limited to this startup. In California, one family uses a method they call “square-inch gardening” to grow thousands of pounds of vegetables per year on a tiny one-tenth-of-an-acre homestead.
Another man in Kenya used hydroponics to convert a trash dump into an urban farm he now uses to feed his community.
A study from the University of Colorado found significant health benefits to gardening, including getting more fiber in your diet, doing more physical activity, and getting out in the sun. Or, in the case of the Metro Farm, getting out under the LED lights.
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