Urban Pastoral Collective produces vegetables from vertical white troughs, which is unlike traditional farming that utilizes parallel rows in the ground. The farm-in-a-box is housed in a space provided by Humanim, a workforce-development organization.
Diodes produce artificial sunlight, while digital sensors monitor pH levels, temperature and the nutritional needs, all of which are adjusted automatically as needed.
Twenty-nine-year-old J.J. Reidy, former MBA student at Johns Hopkins Business School, established the company two years old. With the help of business partner, Christian de Paco, a Naval Academy graduate from Costa Rica, Urban Pastoral has sprung from a two-person operation to 19.
While the farming unit only fills 320 square feet, it generates the same amount of produce as a one-acre farm. The company has a restaurant in a Remington food hall and R House, with a planned future location at the Baltimore Food Hub, an East Baltimore-culinary center that is currently under construction.
Darius Graham worked with Paco and Reidy as director of the Social Innovation Lab at Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures. He said the model could work for more than just turning profits, but there are no guarantees.
“In the long run, I think Urban Pastoral will be a great success story of a Baltimore startup that created jobs and opportunity in our city and also made a lasting impact,” Graham told The Baltimore Sun. “Whether by employing residents at their own food businesses or helping young people learn about urban agriculture, there’s so much potential and need for this company and others like it that want to make an impact.”
The firm’s steel constructed farm-in-a-box, known as Box/UP, costs $80,000 to acquire and retrofit. It generates up to 80 pounds of Thai basil and lettuce weekly.
While the partners are met with strong competition, they continue to believe that the farm-in-a-box is a potential catalyst in urban revitalization.