It’s a crazy thought, but as populations grow and more buildings are built and farmland becomes less and less eventually there could be a food shortage. Estimates say world population will be 9 billion by 2050 and we will need 60 percent more food. Farmland is shrinking and we need to figure out how to make more food on less land. Farmer Dave Smiles, the founder of Uriah’s Urban Farms, has the answer: Go vertical. The farm was founded in 2012 and is slated to sell more than 1.5 million plants this year.
Based in Tampa, Uriah’s is a leader in bringing sustainable indoor agriculture to urban centers, utilizing their self-developed indoor cultivation platform called the iVertical Farm with patented technologies focused on traveling banks of lights that work robotically; microclimate control zones and the use of capturing and reusing the plants' evapotranspiration. This system has been proven to have the ability to produce greater than that of a typical farm while utilizing 5 percent less water and has a less hazardous impact to the environment with no pesticides or chemicals of any kind are used in the cultivation process of their 50 different lettuces, herbs and greens.
The farm is named Uriah’s after Farmer Dave’s son who has a rare genetic disorder that impairs brain metabolism. There is no cure, but a ketogenic diet is very helpful, which in parts can be found in cleaned-sourced, vitamin-rich leafy greens. So his son’s diet is in part based on what they grow at Uriah’s e.g. kale, rainbow chard, buttercrunch lettuce, etc.
Uriah’s unique farming process allows them to deliver still-living plants directly to restaurants in back-of-house stackable flats. Did you know that the moment a plant is harvested, it dies and its nutritional value begins to wane? Within 24 hours of harvesting, up to 80% of a tender soft tissue plant’s potent essential oils are lost, along with potentially half its vitamins and minerals. For many plants, those benefits are almost completely gone within three days. Uriah’s Urban Farms is changing the way things are done. Farmer Dave has figured out how to keep plants alive up until they hit your fork.
We got to chat with Farmer Dave about Uriah's and here's what he had to say:
- What are you most proud of that you've accomplished with the farm so far?
At Uriah's we believe it's an honor and responsibility to grow food for our communities and we fill with a sense of deep satisfaction every time we watch someone enjoying the veggies of our labor. That being said, it's really amazing to think that we are growing for multiple James Beard award winners and nominees such as Allen Susser, Kathleen Blake, and Ferrell Alvarez. I am very excited to see the overall expansion of the brands throughout Florida, from Jamie DeRosa’s Izzy’s in Ft. Myers to local Miami concepts like La Mar, Beaker & Gray, Zest and Stiltsville. Every time I walk into one of the kitchens of these great chefs, it really is humbling to me to see how much they love and appreciate our work.
- How many employees does that farm currently have?
The Uriah's team currently has about 15 team members.
- Where do you see the iVertical concept in 5 years?
We have an aggressive growth plan that has us growing food in over a dozen cities over the next five years. We will continue to diversify our client base into new market segments, like healthcare, continuing to innovate ways to further heal and nourish our communities through plant-based solutions.
- What's your absolute favorite thing being produced so far?
I'm probably most excited about the addition of our new vertical aeroponic growing system and the amazing quality plants it produces. That being said, there is no greater satisfaction I get than seeing one of our clients get to harvest their own herbs, greens and lettuces from one of our living garden products and prepare the ultimate meal in a fresh dining experience!
5251 E Diana St
Tampa, FL 33610