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Sustainable Farming Uses Undeveloped Lot in Denver

Following her discussion earlier this month, Lin Merage is excited to share about a new sustainable farming project that is happening right here in the middle of Denver! An article from the Colorado Sun detailed a sustainable farming operation being run by two brothers out of a shipping container in an old used-car lot in Denver. The project is aptly named Ullr’s Garden following the brother's time growing up in Breckenridge honoring Ullr Fest. More importantly, the project showcases a viable use case for undeveloped lots in urban areas to house a sustainable crop farm.

Ullr’s Garden a local produce farm

Nick Millisor and his brother are the ones in charge of a lonely shipping container in the back property of an old used-car lot. However, the shipping container is anything but ordinary or mundane. Inside, the brothers have successfully cultivated a range of leafy greens; lettuce, romaine, basil, and arugula. According to the article, Ullr’s Garden was started this year of 2022, and is producing its first crops of many. This project houses a hydroponics growing operation in a single shipping container and already produces the number of crops a 5-acre seasonal farm would produce. What is more is that is only a single growing station (one shipping container), which the Millisor Brothers are already addressing by establishing stackable versions. “We are growing local produce, in the middle of Denver… as anyone who’s seen a modern port city… they’re stackable”.

Although hydroponics is far from the main solution to work alongside traditional farming in terms of supply and profits, it does have a viable business model and an even more viable reason to pursue it. There are many large hydroponic farms and operations throughout Denver and the cost averaging still requires some flexibility. Apparently, the seasons and growing cycles are not the concern, but the space and amount of resources for a type of crop have been the main deciding factors of cost.

Traditional Farming vs. Vertical Farming

According to Dr. Kai-Shu Ling, a plant pathologist at the University of South Carolina's vegetable research lab, vertical farming can produce crops that are more seasonal and regional than traditional farming. A vertical farming operation involves growing crops inside a building. It then uses various methods such as artificial growing systems and hydroponics. This method allows growers to plant their crops indoors all year round.

Traditional farming is far from being outmoded in our daily lives. Traditional farming will continue to be the main method and supplier of products for many years to come. However, it has come to a known issue that modern society is putting a strain on traditional farming. With ever-increasing populations and food demand, more and more product needs to be cultivated. Farmlands themselves are struggling with problems surrounding climates, pesticide use, and bioavailability in the soil.

While not the single solution to the future of crop farming, vertical farming has shown strengths through its compactness, resource efficiency, and ability to grow crops year-round without concern for seasons.

Real Estate Investors can find a new use for buy-and-hold

For buy-and-hold properties, real estate investors might be able to take advantage of vacant urban lots and turn them into thriving providers to the local neighborhoods. Lin Merage and her company SSRE Sustainable Real Estate have always sought sustainable solutions through real estate investment strategies. The idea of shipping containers being stored on a vacant lot may seem aesthetic off, but if they are outfitted with a thriving business the outlook changes.

In the article, the Millisor Brothers of Urll’s Garden have plans to scale their operations up, quite literally. “Vertical farming takes place inside, grows crops in stacked layers, and uses artificial growing systems such as hydroponics, aquaponics, and other methods.”.

In the sense of a buy-and-hold real estate investment opportunity, a party can purchase an underdeveloped lot and start an operation (or rent) for this high-mobility business with a low impact on the lot and infrastructure. It is even stated that the lot Ullr’s Garden is on doesn’t even have a water tap from Denver Water. All they need is 5 gallons of water a day that is brought in from an outside source. Talk about a supplemental cash flow operation over a long-term buy-and-hold opportunity!

Regardless of the business opportunities involved, Lin Merage and many others are fascinated with this sustainable solution to an upcoming concern. Ullr’s Garden brings innovation to urban farming solutions that can cut down on supply issues, resource efficiency problems, climate hazards, and logistical challenges.

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