Vertical, indoor urban farming is turning out primo produce for local chefs

Vertical farming uses less water, space and fuel

TAMPA - In the historic building in Ybor City, that houses the  Roosevelt 2.0  art cooperative, one man is turning a thousand years of agriculture on it's head, or more precisely on it's side.

"I don't use square footage. I use cubic footage" says Dave Smiles, vertical farmer.

On  a  single wall of stackable stainless steel modules, Smiles can grow as many as 5,000 plants including herbs, peppers, beans eggplant and tomatoes.
 
 Inside the air conditioned brick building, every day is a cool and bright spring day.  

Because there are no bugs, no pesticides are needed. With drip irrigation, no water is wasted and all his customers are local, saving fuel.

"You don't have to ship lettuce from California to make a salad in Tampa" said Smiles.   

The veggies start as seedlings grown on  horizontal racks until their big enough to go on the wall in a medium made of coconut chips.  And they seem perfectly happy to be sideways. Smiles claims he can harvest some plants 17 times in a year.

But smiles is most enthusiastic about the nutritional density and flavor of his produce that he says comes from being impeccably fresh.

Indeed the rainbow chard and rocket arugula had a rich, long lasting flavor.

Some of the best restaurants in Tampa agree. Mis en Place, Armani's, and Oystercatchers are among his customers.  

Dave Smiles plans to expand his company, Uriah Urban Farms  soon and believes more agriculture will be looking up out of necessity.

"85 percent of all farmable land is already in use.  So we're going to have to get creative to feed people."

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