Praxis Market Place – Urban Farming & Community Development

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While at the university I had the change to reconnect to the Praxis Market Place initiative that has an amazing model for revitalizing urban neighborhoods around a compelling new business model.
I wanted to share their vision statement:
Our vision entails the growth of Praxis as a vertically integrated enterprise that uses the natural necessity of food and jobs to revitalize neighborhoods. Long term we target fifty-five percent of the food on our store shelves to come from the communities they serve. In time we aim to create 200 stores and a minimum of 30 large-scale Aquaponics locations. Our vision brings production back to inner cities as a means to create livelihoods. This vital link improves the Praxis supply chain and is also a means of reducing the amount of perservatives in food, reducing food travel miles, while delivering fresher food with local involvement. All the approaches are major factors in creating better urban health and improving living conditions.
At first glance the model is focused on urban farming and what it can deliver to the community in terms of health benefits.  Deeper investigation sees beyond this into the impact it can have on job creation,  community development, and education.   What is also easily missed at first glance is the new forms of cross business exchange that it can bring to the community where business can be exchanging products, byproducts, and services for the mutual benefit of everyone’s business. Buy helping communities at the health, job, and education levels it creates a deeper form of economic development and community growth.  While in the early phases of implementation,  there is yet to be discovered what communities can accomplish next as they rise to the basic potential this program offers.
I had first connected with Praxis during my employment at Microsoft.   We had explored partnership areas around the underlying systems to support the business model and the consumer technology solutions to help integrate a community across both the services and social aspects of the business model.  Not only could technology help underpin the business, but create dynamic social, communication and education links for the community.
Reconnecting with Praxis I was able to appreciate the continued evolution and maturation in the business model as well as catch up on the the momentum they where gaining in cities across the USA.   Our conversation at the University explored how we could support these concepts with curriculum and training for communities in urban farming,  cross business collaboration, and city development planning.
I’m looking forward to watching the progress of this initiative in multiple cities and how the potential spreads as more community success stories are available.
Praxis Facebook Page
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Tour of Garden Fresh Farms

Garden Fresh Farms

I was able to meet with a leading start-up and MN Cup Winner Garden Fresh Farms.   As a pioneer in urban farming they are one of our regions leaders in urban farming.   We had an opportunity to tour there Minneapolis facility and see the technology and processes in action.  The first thing that impresses in the layout of the vertical farming system.  The ability to optimize space turning 1 acre into 100 acres of productive farming creates a whole new scale of agriculture.  The conservation of water and use of fish tanks in closed systems also adds to the economy of the production.   Given the indoor nature,  optimized growing conditions can be implemented and it eliminates seasonality and geographic conditions.   These capabilities to produce fresh food sources all year round and reduce transportation costs of traditionally geographically located crops to being produced locally.
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The uses for the technology are both boundless, breakthrough, but can also be disruptive.   Given the small footprint of the technology it is possible to place urban farms on top of corporate building, apartments, campuses, or inside of existing building like old warehouses that can be used to renovate older sections of town and create new jobs.  Fresh produce can be available in stores, restaurants, and cafeterias daily and year round.  Lack of growing seasons means steady work in stead of a migratory work force.   Local growth means a massive reduction in transportation that the food industry relies upon now.  These are all benefits but disrupt the status quo of current systems.
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Urban Farming Impact
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Urban farming is going through many interactions and advancements of technology.  New forms of lighting, filtering, and monitoring is constantly improving a system with waste advantages.   Does technology spell the end of traditional farming.   No,  the need for food production is only going to increase, but with more land being used to raise animals for the growing demographics of meat eaters, this could be a vital companion to traditional farming.  With the new capabilities to produce food in an urban environment now possible, it will be interesting to watch which countries and cities will become the leaders in this area.

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