The urban agriculture industry is poised to explode in California, with a $3.2 billion increase over last year and a $2.4 billion jump from the year before, according to new data.
The new data shows a record number of farms are opening and growing in California as farmers, urban planners and developers work to capitalize on an anticipated demand for produce and more efficient farming practices.
The industry grew 10.4 percent to $2,858.5 billion last year, and has grown at a much faster rate than any other agricultural sector.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports there are an estimated 1.6 million urban farms, or about 7 percent of all U.A.E. farms, up from about 1.1 million farms in 2012.
Agriculture and food policy experts say the industry is set to add another $1 trillion to U.E.-related businesses by 2025.
A $3 billion increase in agricultural sales over last fiscal year helped boost sales to $1.1 trillion in 2019, and will grow to $3 trillion in 2020.
The data released Thursday also showed that the number of acres planted with crops, the number harvested and the amount of feed produced in a given year grew to the highest level since the bureau started tracking agricultural production in the mid-1990s.
The Agriculture Department has not yet published its new crop forecast.
California agriculture experts said the data confirms what they already knew: There is a strong demand for urban farms and urban farmers are thriving.
“We’re seeing a very good return on the investment in this industry and a strong return on investment in our cities,” said David Hovater, executive director of the California Urban Agriculture Association.
Hovatter said he expects the urban agriculture boom to continue through 2021, as many of the first urban farms will be opened.
The California Urban Agricultural Association expects the state to have nearly a billion acres planted by 2025, an increase of 25 percent from 2021, according the group.
Urban agriculture has been on a rapid expansion in California since it emerged as a leader in agriculture in the 1950s and ’60s, but it hasn’t seen an uptick in growth in the past three years.
The state is currently home to about 2.3 million urban agriculture operations, and another 3.4 million farms, according data from the California Department of Agriculture.
The number of urban farms is projected to grow to about 10.6 billion acres in 2020, a 25 percent increase from 2021.
The USDA reports that urban farming is expected to grow at a 35 percent annual rate through 2020, compared to an 18 percent growth rate in the previous year.
The trend has accelerated in recent years as the number and size of urban agriculture projects has grown.
“It’s really, really strong,” said Dan Johnson, president of the Urban Farming Alliance, a trade group that represents farmers and urban developers.
Johnson said he is encouraged by the recent surge in urban agriculture.
“There is a lot of new interest,” Johnson said.
“People are starting to see urban farming as a viable business option.”
The new farm growth is coming at a time when urban agriculture has taken on a new identity.
Many urban planners are working to create more efficient and more productive farms, while urban developers are building more and more houses and apartments in cities, and farmers are focusing on growing more and better crops to satisfy growing demand.
The shift from the “backyard farmer” model of farming to an urban agriculture model has been the driving force behind a growing number of farming initiatives.
A growing number have become centers of innovation, from crop-growing systems to software that allows farmers to control the amount and type of feed they can get out of their fields.
In addition, some urban agriculture firms are seeking to tap into technology to make farming easier.
A study released in September by the U.K.-based Oxford University found that urban farmers had become more efficient at growing their crops, even though the average acreage was still smaller than in rural areas.
“Urban agriculture has gone from a back yard farmer model to an industry that is rapidly growing,” said Gary Vazquez, a former senior adviser to the National Crop Insurance Association and now a consultant with the U-M Center for Rural Health.
“I think this is a big opportunity for people to grow the farm and make money while they’re doing it.”
Hovaters farm at a farm in the San Gabriel Valley, near San Diego, Calif.
“The way we’ve been growing the crops and the growing practices have been really efficient,” he said.
The rise in urban farms has been accompanied by a rise in demand for the crop and for farm equipment.
A report from the Urban Agriculture Alliance found that more than one-quarter of all farms have added new technology this year.
It also said that more farms are now using refrigerators, cutting down on the amount they have to feed the crops.
The report also showed a spike in demand in urban areas for farm machinery, including a