‘Future of Food: Urban Ag Field Trip’ to Explore Urban Farming Operations in L.A. County

Urban agriculture ventures of all different stripes – from commercial hydroponic enterprises and rooftop aeroponic farms to community gardens planted atop formerly vacant lots – are not only disrupting the food system, but also generating community and economic capital.

To give you an up close and personal look at a series of innovative urban farming operations that have emerged to tackle challenges to food access, meet marketplace demand for local food, and increase food security, Seedstock has put together the ‘Future of Food – Urban Ag Field Trip’.


Slated for Friday, January 27, 2017, the field trip will look at the community and economic development potential of urban farming. Tour stops include the USC Teaching Garden, Local Roots Farms, and The Growing Experience.

Scheduled for Friday, January 27, 2017, the field trip will look at the impact of urban farming in Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the United States, and include lectures on such topics as the past, present, and future of urban agriculture, vertical farming, and sourcing local food from urban farms.

Spots on the field trip are limited, and it will sell out. So grab your Early Bird Tickets before it’s too late!

Scheduled Field Trips Stops include:

  • The USC Teaching Garden is utilizing aeroponics to challenge the food systems status quo on campus. The University of Southern California (USC) Teaching Garden was established this spring to supply fresh produce to the university’s on-campus restaurants, dining halls, catering services, and hotel, while also teaching students and staff about flavor and sustainability. The garden utilizes aeroponic towers to produce chemical-free fruit, vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers without traditional soil growing media.
  • Local Roots Farms is an indoor vertical farming company based in Los Angeles that designs, builds, deploys, and operates controlled environment farms. Situated in shipping containers, the farms (called TerraFarms) grow with up to 99% less water, 365 days a year, pesticide and herbicide free, and with absolute consistency in production. Their plug and play form provides an innovative solution to the retail and foodservice sectors by greatly reducing supply-chain risks such as price volatility and food safety exposure.
  • The Growing Experience (TGE) is a seven-acre urban farm in North Long Beach that is located on a previously vacant lot. TGE is unique in that it is owned and operated by the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles (HACoLA), which manages 3,229 units of public and other affordable housing for the county’s Public Housing program. The urban farm utilizes traditional as well as aquaponics growing systems to help meet the needs of the community by increasing access to healthy foods.

Register Now for Early Bird Tickets!


Select Confirmed Speakers include:

  • Rachel Surls – Sustainable Food Systems Advisor for UC Cooperative Extension and co-author of the book ‘From Cows to Concrete: The Rise and Fall of Farming in Los Angeles’.
  • Erik Oberholtzer – Co-founder and CEO of Tender Greens
  • Chef Eric Ernest – Executive Chef of USC Hospitality

farm-to-fork lunch hosted by Local Roots Farms featuring lettuce grown on site in the company’s TerraFarms will be provided by lunch sponsor:

The Potential of Urban Agriculture Innovations in the City, from Hydroponics to Aquaponics

How large a role will local food demand play with respect to the growth of indoor and controlled environment urban farming ventures? What are the costs involved in starting a small scale commercial hydroponic/aquaponics farm? What are the opportunities (community and economic) for high-tech controlled environment growing in urban environments such as Orange County? What tools or assets would give an entrepreneur the best chance for success in launching a vertical farming venture in the city?

To learn the answer to these questions, and more, you won’t want to miss the ‘The Potential of Controlled Environment Agriculture in the City’ panel at the upcoming Grow Local OC: Future of Local Food Systems slated for Nov. 10 at California State University, Fullerton. The following expert speakers will address the challenges and opportunities present in employing innovative agricultural growing systems in cities:

erik-cutter_1Erik Cutter is Managing Director of Alegría Fresh, an urban farming company engaged in promoting and deploying zero waste regenerative food and energy solutions using hybrid soils and integrated technologies. In 2009, Mr. Cutter founded EnviroIngenuity with a group of forward-thinking professionals to take advantage of the growing demand for more efficient, cost effective sustainable energy solutions, employing solar PV, hi-efficiency LED lighting, green building and zero waste food production systems. More than 35 years of travel throughout the US, Mexico, South America, Africa, French Polynesia, the Peruvian Amazon, Australia and New Zealand gave Mr. Cutter expert insight into the unique investment opportunities that exist in each region, focusing on sustainable living models and the increasing availability of super foods as a major new market opportunity.

chris-higgins-hort-americas-2014Chris Higgins is General Manager of Hort Americas, LLC (HortAmericas.com) a wholesale supply company focused on all aspects of the horticultural industries. He is also owner of UrbanAgNews.com (eMagazine) and a founding partner of the Foundation for the Development of Controlled Environment Agriculture. With over 15 years of experience, Chris is dedicated to the commercial horticulture industry and is inspired by the current opportunities for continued innovation in the field of controlled environment agriculture. Chris is a leader in providing technical assistance to businesses, including commercial greenhouse operations, state-of-the-art hydroponic vegetable facilities, vertical farms, and tissue culture laboratories. In his role as General Manager at Hort Americas he works with seed companies, manufacturers, growers and universities regarding the development of projects, new products and ultimately the creation of brands. Chris’ role includes everything from sales and marketing to technical support and general management/owner responsibilities.

Register here: http://growlocaloc.eventbrite.com


ed-hortonEd Horton is the President and CEO of Urban Produce. Ed brings over 25 years of experience from the technology industry to Urban Produce. His vision of automation is what drives Urban Produce to become more efficient. With God and his family by his side he is excited to move Urban Produce forward to provide urban cities nationwide with fresh locally grown produce 365 days a year. Ed enjoys golfing and walking the harbor with his wife on the weekends.


chef-adam-navidiChef Adam Navidi – In a county named for its former abundance of orange groves, chef and farmer Adam Navidi is on the forefront of redefining local food and agriculture through his restaurant, farm, and catering business. Navidi is executive chef of Oceans & Earth restaurant in Yorba Linda, runs Chef Adam Navidi Catering and operates Future Foods Farms in Brea, an organic aquaponic farm that comprises 25 acres and several greenhouses. Navidi’s journey toward aquaponics began when he was at the pinnacle of his catering business, serving multi-course meals to discerning diners in Orange County. Their high standards for food matched his own. “My clients wanted the best produce they could get,” he says. “They didn’t want lettuce that came in a box.” So after experimenting with growing lettuce in his backyard, he ventured into hydroponics. Later, he learned of aquaponics. Now, aquaponics is one of the primary ways Navidi grows food. As part of this system he raises Tilapia, which is served at his restaurant and by his catering enterprise.

Nathan Storey 2_28_12Nate Storey is the CEO at Bright Agrotech, a company that seeks to create access to real food for all people through small farmer empowerment. By focusing on equipping and educating local growers with vertical farming technology and high quality online education, Nate and the Bright Agrotech team are helping to build a distributed, transparent food economy. He completed his PhD at the University of Wyoming in Agronomy, and lives in Laramie with his wife and children.


Register here: http://growlocaloc.eventbrite.com

Community College Hort Professor Prepares Students to Work in Indoor Farms of the Future

Students in Professor Valerie Loew's Horticulture class at Fullerton College in Orange County, CA. Photo courtesy of Fullerton College.

Students in Professor Valerie Loew’s Horticulture class at Fullerton College in Orange County, CA. Photo courtesy of Fullerton College.

When it comes to Controlled Environment Agriculture [CEA], Valerie Loew wants the U.S. to catch up with Europe and China before it’s too late.

“The rest of the world is so far ahead of us, because they are so limited with their own resources,” says Loew, who is professor and horticulture department head at Fullerton College in Southern California. “They are taking advantage of this technology way before us because we have sunshine and we have water; but we really don’t. Between Europe and China, the amount of greenhouses they have is just off the charts. We need to start catching up.” Read more

Grow Local OC’s ‘Future Farm Field Trip’ Nearly Sold Out

Grow Local OC Field Trip Farms

The Grow Local OC Conference field trip will stop at, from top left to right: Alegria Farm, Future Foods Farms, The Riverbed, and Urban Produce LLC.

Only 10 spots remain for the Future Farm Field Trip on Day 2 (Nov. 11) of the Grow Local OC: Future of Urban Food Systems Conference. The field trip will of offer an excursion into the diversity of urban and state-of-the-art hydroponic and aquaponic agriculture operations in Orange County. Tour participants will be treated to lectures and sessions from pioneering farmers who are embracing innovative business models and growing systems to both increase food security and take advantage of the escalating demand for local food.

Presently scheduled stops on the field trip include:

Urban Produce LLC – an indoor vertical farming operation based in Irvine, California that uses advanced hydroponic technologies in a controlled environment. Urban Produce currently grows and sells organic microgreens that are available throughout southern California

The Riverbed – an aquaponics community farm in Anaheim, California that uses minimal water to operate and produce over 2,000 pounds of food for underserved residents.

Alegría Farm – an urban farm that supports more than 60 cultivators growing over 50,000 plants utilizing hydroponic and natural, nutrient-dense configurations. The farm’s resource-efficient technologies demonstrate how urban microfarms can supply communities with locally grown, fresh produce while reducing transportation and preserving natural resources.

Future Foods Farms – one of the largest aquaponic farms in the state, Future Foods Farms is located on 25 acres in Brea, California. The farm produces all organically grown products in several 2,000-4,000 square-feet greenhouses.

Register now to grab one of the last spots on the trip


On Day 1 (Nov. 10) of the conference, attendees will convene at the Portola Pavilion at California State University, Fullerton in Orange County, CA for a series of panels and keynotes that will address such topic areas as urban farming and local food access, the economic potential of indoor agriculture, local food policy, the benefits of community and school gardens, and more. The day will be anchored by a keynote address from Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, on the importance of agriculture and local food systems in cities.

For additional information, and to purchase Seed Saver Discount tickets for the field trip and conference prior to the Oct. 17 deadline, please visit:


Select Confirmed Speakers:

Karen Ross – Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture
Mark Lowry – Director of the Orange County Food Bank
Rachel Surls – Sustainable Food Systems Advisor for UC Cooperative Extension
Ed Horton – President and CEO of Urban Produce LLC
Colin and Karen Archipley – Co-founders of Archi’s Acres and the VSAT Program
Derek Lutz – Asst. Vice President at American AgCredit
Aaron Fox – Asst. Professor, Urban & Community Agriculture at Cal Poly Pomona
Frank Fitzpatrick – Owner of 5 Bar Beef
Glenn Tanaka – Owner of Tanaka Farms
Kimi McAdam – Asst. Dept. Administrator for Food and Nutrition Services at Kaiser Permanente
Chris Higgins – General Manager at Hort Americas
Tim Alderson – Executive Director at Seeds of Hope
Chef Adam Navidi – Founder, Future Foods Farms and Oceans & Earth Restaurant
Rishi Kumar – Co-founder and Director of The Growing Club
Christina Hall – Executive Director of OC Food Access Coalition
Jeremy Samson – Chair of Slow Food OC
Anna Maria Desipris – The Ecology Center/The Honeybee Hub
Erik Cutter – Managing Director of Alegria Fresh
Dwight Detter – Executive Director, Slow Money SoCal
Megan Penn – Executive Director of Orange Home Grown
Sara E. Johnson – Director of the Urban Agriculture Community-based Research Experience (U-ACRE) program at Cal State Fullerton
…and more!

Register Now!


Dr. Nate Storey to Discuss Viability of Indoor Farming in the City at Grow Local OC Conference

Nate Storey, CEO and founder of Bright Agrotech, a

Nate Storey, CEO and founder of Bright Agrotech, a company that develops vertical and high density farming equipment, will discuss the viability of indoor farming in cities at the upcoming Grow Local OC Conference at Cal State University, Fullerton on Nov. 10 – 11.

The organizers of the Grow Local OC Conference: The Future of Urban Food Systems, slated for Nov. 10 – 11 at Cal State University, Fullerton are excited to announce that Dr. Nate Storey, the CEO of Bright Agrotech, a company that leads the industry in vertical and high density farming equipment, will be participating as a speaker.

Nate began to have the first stirrings of what would eventually become Bright Agrotech when he was a student at the University of Wyoming. The program is well-known for turning out leaders in the farming and ranching fields, and Nate is no exception. He self-funded the startup while pursuing his Ph.D. in Agronomy.

Bright Agrotech offers several services and products, including farm consulting and financial analysis. But they are best-known for their ZipGrow growing towers.

The ZipGrow system is comprised of food-safe plastic towers filled with growing media that replace the need for soil. The towers weigh eight pounds each and are engineered to be hung or set on any surface.

“Our towers are designed to put the user experience and the future experience in mind. When we developed the product, we weren’t just trying to build another stacked pot technique,” Storey told Seedstock earlier this year. “We wanted to create a design specifically for the unique growing variables inherent to vertical plane agriculture.”

Despite only being three years old, Bright Agrotech enjoys approximately 10,000 customers across the United States and around the world.

At the upcoming Grow Local OC Conference, Nate will discuss the potential for  launching indoor farms in cities, as well as the tools and training programs available to do so. Register now to hear him speak:  http://growlocaloc.eventbrite.com

Urban Aquaponic Farmer and Chef Orange County Adam Navidi

4 OC Farms Using Innovation to Meet Market Demand and Increase Food Access

Urban Aquaponic Farmer and Chef Orange County Adam Navidi

Photo courtesy of Future Foods Farms.

Orange County, California, named for abundant orange groves long since paved over to make way for residential and commercial development (and Disneyland), is striving to reconnect with with its agricultural roots. New farmers and entrepreneurs are emerging to take advantage of growing demand for local and hyper-local produce and help communities overcome food access challenges.

However, as a result of high land prices that make it prohibitively expensive to purchase acreage necessary to operate a traditional field farming endeavor, these pioneering farmers utilize innovative growing systems that enable production of high volumes of produce on a small footprint. Aquaponics, hydroponics and solar energy are just some of the cutting-edge tools that these urban farmers are employing to grow and supply fresh, local food to area residents and retailers in the county.

Below is a sampling of four innovative urban farms growing food locally to benefit the community and economy of Orange County.  

Future Foods Farms–Brea

Chef and farmer Adam Navidi has transformed 25 acres in Brea into Future Foods Farms, a forward-thinking urban farming dynamo. The farm uses aquaponics to raise tilapia and grow a wide array of produce including lettuce, tomatoes, herbs, vegetables, peppers and flowers.


The combination of hydroponics with aquaculture that forms an aquaponic system serves to create a more optimized and sustainable food production system by solving for problems that occur in the individual systems. With hydroponics, a grower often must rely upon commercial fertilizers in order to enrich the water, while in aquaculture the fish farmer must constantly monitor the toxicity levels of the water that results from fish effluents (waste).

In aquaponics, the fish effluent in the water provides an organic nutrient source, or natural fertilizer, for the plants being grown in the system. The plants in turn consume the natural fertilizer and in the process filter and purify the water, which is subsequently recirculated back to the fish.

Chef Navidi’s aquaponically grown produce can be found at his Yorba Linda restaurant, Oceans & Earth, as well as at numerous farmers’ markets across Orange County. It’s also distributed through the Future Foods Farms CSA and served at events that Navidi caters.

Not content to keep his farming innovations to himself, Navidi is passionate about teaching others about the value of innovative urban agriculture. Through its menu and website, Oceans & Earth patrons learn about the food they eat. Additionally, Future Foods Farms offers internships to students from California State University, Fullerton.

Control Air Community Farm–Anaheim

On a small patch of land nestled in between a busy street, an elementary school, and a row of houses sits a quiet farm that is making big waves in Orange County sustainability. It’s the Control Air Community Farm in Anaheim, a project of Renewable Farms. It is an aquaponics farm, a farming system that combines elements of aquaculture and hydroponics and it just might be the future of sustainable agriculture.

Inside the farm one finds rows of arugula, basil, and other crops in raised plant beds connected to tanks of tilapia. The farm, which was built on asphalt, consists of 10 4,000-gallon tanks and 50 80-square-foot plant beds. It also uses minimal water to operate, and produces over 2,000 pounds of food for underserved residents.

Aaron has big plans for the future of the Control Air Community Farm. He hopes that it becomes more than just a farm, but also a gathering spot for the neighborhood. He welcomes visitors and kids from the neighborhood to come over to just hang out. Families often stop by to have a picnic, too. He even hopes to build a half-pipe so kids can come over and have somewhere to skate.

Urban Produce–Irvine

At Urban Produce in Irvine, hydroponic vertical growing systems supply nourishment to crops inside a controlled-environment greenhouse. The company’s patented growing system stacks produce vertically, in a closed automated environment. Produce in the system rotates in the greenhouse providing it with uniform light and air distribution. As a result of this automation, plants receive a precisely calibrated amount of nutrients and water that boosts efficiency and reduces costs.

Urban Produce’s hydroponic system requires 90 percent less water than a conventional farm. Much of the water required for the system comes from a dehumidifier system that draws water from the air to nourish the plants. In this repetitive closed-loop system, the plants release water back into the air, which is again recaptured by the dehumidifier system.

Urban Produce is a USDA certified organic grower that produces wheatgrass and a variety of microgreens including broccoli, kale, amaranth, wasabi, bok choy, radish and sunflower seeds. The company sells primarily to local customers, and as a result its produce remains fresher longer and shipping costs are greatly reduced. 

Alegría Fresh–Irvine

Alegría Fresh, which currently operates out of the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, utilizes hydroponics to grow everything from herbs and leafy greens to peppers, zucchini and tomatoes.  The high-tech farm includes 130 vertical hydroponic growing towers, each one containing about 40 plants. The towers use coconut fiber (coir) as a growing medium, which prevents contamination from harmful bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella and listeria. A benefit to this type of farming is minimal water requirements—a tower drinks less than three quarters of a gallon daily. And since the vertical growing system is powered by the sun, its overall energy costs are negligible.

Alegría Fresh’s  Soxx Farm, a collaboration between Alegría Fresh, Orange County Produce and Filtrexx Corporation, is equally innovative. The farm employs GardenSoxx, an innovative natural, nutrient-dense food production system that can be used over cement or other man-made surfaces. The Alegría Soxx farm consists of 13 rows of 5 Soxx each, for a total of 7,200 linear feet of growing space within an 8,500 sq. ft. area (approx. 1/5 acre). According to Alegría, production yields are nearly double that of conventional farming, and water usage is 70% less. Thirteen different specialty crops including four cultivators of beets, onions, red and green romaine, radicchio, treviso, red and green cabbage and kale are being grown to demonstrate the versatility of the system.

OC Food System Case Study: Control Air Community Farm Utilizes Aquaponics to Grow Food for Community

aaron flora renewable farms aquaponicsOn a small patch of land nestled in between a busy street, an elementary school, and a row of houses sits a quiet farm that is making big waves in Orange County sustainability. Inside the farm you’ll find rows of arugula, basil, and other crops in raised plant beds connected to tanks of tilapia. It also uses minimal water to operate and produces over 2,000 pounds of food for underserved residents. It’s the Control Air Community Farm in Anaheim, a project of Renewable Farms. It is an aquaponics farm, a farming system that combines elements of aquaculture and hydroponics and it just might be the future of sustainable agriculture. Read more