10 best entrepreneurial ideas in urban farming

In addition to growing crops and rearing animals profitably, this article outlines 10 entrepreneurial ideas on how you can make money farming as an individual, group or a company.  To explore these ideas we are making two assumptions about urban agricultural sector;

  • First, urban farming is a complex system with various inputs and outputs. The inputs include plant nutrients, water, seed, biodiversity, agrochemicals, labour, knowledge and money. In return the system outputs are food, non-food outputs and wastes. The urban farming system has close knit interactions with biological, social, economic, political and health systems. These are best summarized diagrammatically by yizhouwang and research gate.
  • Secondly, urban farming is a value chain with following players; agro dealers, service providers, traders, processors, wholesalers and retailers. They are actively or indirectly involved in supply of inputs, growing of crops or animals, harvesting, aggregation of products, transport to market or processors, manufacturing and processing of foods, distribution, final consumption and disposal of food wastes.

A smart entrepreneur should explore any existing gaps or challenges in the food system across the food value chain.  You can solve these challenges through creative and affordable products or services at a profit. Some of these business ideas include.

Become a Farm inputs’ supplier

Stock cheap or low cost farm inputs necessary in urban farms. These can be farm tools, certified seeds, organic fertilizer, organic farm chemicals (pesticides herbicides), fortified animal feeds and farm equipments such as chicken feeders and drinkers.

To make more money in this area, consider:

  • Making mobile sales by vending close to urban farms using trucks or motorbikes.
  • Stock unpopular inputs such as pedigree embryos, organic fertilizers, cultured seedlings and biological pest control products.
  •  Divide bulk and sell farm inputs in smaller sizes that are affordable to most people.

Make sure you are an accredited stockists and invest in robust digital and traditional marketing to reach additional farmers. In additional to the above inputs, urban farmers also need Clean water, soil, energy and land. You can become a broker of these linking the suppliers and farmers.

Supply, Install and manintain farm infrastructure and equipment

Urban and peri urban farming and food processing is highly capital intensive. Farmers and processors are reliant on qualified technicians and engineers to install farm equipment and infrastructure. You can venture in this line by supplying and installing items such as milk coolers and boilers, feed millers, packaging machinery, and dispensers. As an agronomist you can consult on laying down of drip irrigation kits and establishing of green/net houses.  For sustainability in this area diversify by becoming a supplier, installer and offering repair and maintenance services.

Offer Cold storage services

Estimates place post-harvest food losses in Kenya at 21-30 %. Urban farming focusses in production of highly perishable products such as vegetables, fruits, milk and meat. Putting them under cold storage would maintain their quality and saleability for longer period than the normal shelf life.  However, Cold storage infrastructure is expensive to install and maintain since they consume high energy. As an entrepreneur you can focus in offering cold storage space to small scale farmers and food traders at a fee. Another option involves supplying energy efficient coolers such as solar and charcoal coolers.

Raise Vegetable seedlings  

This Involves supplying clean planting materials (seedlings) or offering a seed propagation service to urban farmers at a fee.  Small scale farmers cannot afford seed propagation using technical tissue culture and soilless technologies. When farmers establish their own seedling nurseries, they experience poor germination rates, suffer losses from plant pests and diseases or end up with contaminated plants from infected soil.  As a plant raiser you will invest in propagation tunnels, irrigation kit, and trays on raised seedbeds.

Aggregate agricultural produce

Urban agriculture is usually segregated and fragmented affair with individual farmers operating alone. Farmers end up producing in excess but lack proper market information about where to sell their products profitably. As an entrepreneur, bring together a group of farmers together to form producer and marketing farmer groups and cooperatives.  Farmer groups has stronger bargaining power and control high quality of product hence can sell at a premium.

With proper corporate governance, management and leadership, farming groups can mature into diversified and sustainable businesses. These can invest in extension services member training, off-taker and checkoff systems, value addition and distribution of value added products.  

Market research and advisory services

Urban farming knowledge is still developing hence the need for additional research and development. Research entrepreneurs can collate and disseminate relevant and timely information on best trends in urban farming such as energy conservation, recycling, agro financing, marketing and communication. Researchers and consultants should provide affordable farmer information. As a business ideas, a content creator can make instructional videos and other educational materials such as books and brochures. These can be translated to local languages for more profits. You can also give cheap monetised coaching, training and extension services.

Value addition

Farmers market their agricultural products with little or no value addition. They only attract low farm gate prices with low profits. By engaging themselves in full or partial value addition of food and distribution they can attract higher incomes. To do this, an entrepreneur can invest in food processing equipment to dry, can, freeze, brand, package and distribute food to consumers. Other methods of adding value in food are catering, retailing and running onsite/ farm grocery stores and fast food outlets.

Promote protected agriculture

Pests, diseases and erratic weather conditions such as droughts, hailstorms and wind are key challenges affecting urban agricultural yields. Protected agriculture can reduce these effects by controlling environmental conditions to permit better plant growth in dry and wet seasons. Protected agriculture methods include mulching, green houses, low covers, drip irrigation and zero grazing. As an entrepreneur, you can be involved in several areas like laying irrigation kits, sinking boreholes, digging water pans and promoting rain water harvesting solutions. Other openings include distributing and installing greenhouse materials, providing animal feeds and fodder such as hay and silage among other ideas.

Offer business support and extension services 

Professional farm management and skilled farm labour are missing in urban farming and negatively affecting its performance. Farmers lack relevant information about Pests and disease control, soil health management, planting mechanisms, finance, marketing and quality assurance.  Though extension services in Kenya are offered as a public good, this can be commercialised through affordable extension and market linkage services.  Businesses can be established as consulting firms or farmer resource centres that can second their professionals to assist farmer’s throughout the farming cycle.

Leisure and tourism

Farming in cities can be a great recreational and educational businesses especially for campers and corporate conferences.  Host events in your garden that instruct visitors on farm operations from “farm to fork” including planting, crop management, harvesting, processing consumption and waste management. Other variations of farm tourism include having hiking trails, fishing games, and hosting conferences and ceremonies like weddings and team building. You will have to offer complementary services such as restaurants, accommodation, camping and swimming pools for superior services.

Conclusion

Urban farming is profitable beyond growing plants and animals. This article outlined 10 of those business ideas. They include value addition, monetised extension services, offering cold storage and promoting protected agriculture among others. Farming is a sustainable business area as it provides food and non-food products. By viewing it as a complex open system and a value chain with multiple interconnected players it opens varied business ideas to solve various gaps affecting its performance.  

Samuel K

Samuel Kibicho is passionate about profitable and safe agriculture as a tool for wealth creation and food security. He is the founder of Agcenture and consults in market systems development (MSD), program management and result measurement, monitoring and evaluation for sustainable agriculture & rural development projects.

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2 Responses

  1. April 15, 2020

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    […] settle in towns, we must shift our food production from being Over-reliant on rural production. Learn how you can become an urban farmer to produce quality food for self-consumption and sale right on your rooftops, back yards, vertical […]

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