Saturday, May 4, 2013

Making money from Urban Agriculture

I ummed and ahhed at writing this post because I am a bit embarrassed that I am still not making a profit after a year at Urban farming. My excuses consist of a steep learning curve, infrastructure and things to buy, as well as a shocking summer where I could barely grow or sell anything.
After learning from the problems I have had and not not having as much to buy now I think I will be starting to make a profit from June onwards.

Here is a rough guideline of how I am planning my income and expenditure.

Each bed is expected to bring in $100 profit each year - that is after expenses like manure, water costs and land lease but before my wage. Of course this is averaged out as some beds will have crops that take longer to grow so will only bear 2 crops a year but others will finish four crops a year. Luckily we can grow food crops practically all year round. My beds are 4m long by just over 1m wide. I have four vegetable blocks (empty house blocks of about a 1/4 acre of so) and each block can fit around 50-60 beds. I haven't started to think about costs and profits on my fruit block as it is still a couple of years at least off any harvests.

Pictures - Left: bed of cauliflower seedlings. Right: Some of the seedling cauliflowers in this bed died so I sprinkled some radish seeds between them to make up the harvest.

An example:

A bed starts with 60 lettuces which will sell for between $1 and $1.50 depending on the market and quality. I should be able to sell 50 lettuces (allowing for around 10% loss due to damage or poor growth) within 3 months of planting. Then will go in a crop of snow peas to add nitrogen to the soil, I will take two pickings of peas off these (24 punnets at $2.50 each) then dig them in as they are still growing.
Lastly will go in beetroot. I should get 140 beets which will make 30 bunches to sell at $3 per bunch (I like to sell my beets big).

This bed should make me around $200. Manure, water and lease costs for each bed are around $35 per year, so a profit of $165 before wages. The manure/fertiliser costs are high because I am on pure sand and have to add manure and organic matter every time I plant a new crop except after the snow pea crops.

The high profit of a 3 or 4 rotation bed is offset by beds that contain plants that take 9 months to be harvested like yacon, pumpkins and oca. These beds can only produce one or two harvests in a year and the crops are low income.

Of course many of my beds contain plants that are being grown for seed and although I can't sell the vegetables I usually have enough seed left over to sell in packets to make a profit on the bed.

I hope I am not being too optimistic in my plans but I think my estimates should be fairly accurate. I should be able to make a full-time income off my urban farming within 6 months from now, fingers crossed. I will go out and buy some notebooks on monday so I can record the crops, harvests and all details of every bed to see how my estimates compare to reality over the next year. Should be very interesting.

If you find this post interesting and want me to give detailed updates just leave a comment below. If enough people want to know I will make it a regular monthly thing.

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