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Urban Farmers: Farming for the 21st Century


Urban Farmers brings what people deserve – 100% natural fresh products.

The demand for organic food rises, yet it doesn’t seem like there is much that can be done about this aside from one thing. Many are fooled by the organic label and pay a reasonable price for what they consider organic, only to find the fine print on the label that says the produce has been treated with chemicals.

Fortunately, there’s a Swiss company that manages to provide fresh organic food of high quality to many markets thanks to their horticulture and aquaculture strategies.

Urban Farmers is a global pioneer when it comes to managing urban farming, thanks to Roman Gaus. Learn more about Roman’s story of creating a sustainability company utilizing rooftop greenhouse farms, thus providing natural ingredients for the biggest stores across the globe.

The Guy Behind it All

Roman Gaus is a 43-year old social entrepreneur and urban farmer who transitioned from a corporate profession.

Roman's narrative is both enthralling and motivating. When Roman returned to Switzerland from the United States, he had a brief but eventful career with firms such as the Franke Group, Procter & Gamble, and Novartis.

Nonetheless, he carried a growing notion of inner-city farming with him, which he had seen take root in US cities. Roman was startled by the proven, Swiss-engineered technical know-how of Aquaponics, a combination of fish and vegetable farming well suited for a particular objective. This was the objective of cultivating locally grown and organic food without soil in the city. Once Roman saw the great potential, the concept of Urban Farmers was born.

Currently, Roman is the founder and CEO of Urban Farmers AG. This is a ground-breaking spin-off branch company from the original Wädenswil's University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) that intends to introduce sustainable urban agriculture methods to 21st-century cities.

Triggering the Idea

The idea came to grow once Roman started thinking that farming could have a more prevalent and promising future. He took into consideration the growing number of people in the world. After some calculations, Roman and his team concluded that by 2050 the demand for food would increase by 100%. It was taken into consideration that 70% of all the people on the Planet live in an urban environment.

Thinking he could do something about it, he slowly turned his idea into something tangible for a more promising future for 9 billion people.

The majority of experts would say that the current way of producing food is the easiest and cheapest. However, Roman disagrees with it due to several facts. Using fossil fertilizers made of oil, various kinds of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, vast amounts of water, and fuel for transportation is doing no good to our planet.

Plus, the low earnings for the farmers due to the fruits and vegetables traveling distances of 2000 miles on average before they reach the supermarket shelves aids to the overall drawback of such practices.

Due to the environmental footprint, the idea for more sustainable farming triggered Roman. He wanted to not only make a profit and successfully bring healthy food to people living in the cities, but he also wanted to impact our planet most positively.

Creative Juices Start Flowing

The initiation of the Urban Farmers Company occurred in 2011. After Roman learned that people were already growing food in the cities without soil, this happened. His brain gears started turning as he began creating an idea of using buildings with enough potential and space to grow food on this principle.

The idea of using aquaponics, where people can grow fish and vegetables in a closed-loop system, glued the whole thing as things started happening. This closed system can be set up in an empty container where the fish would be, and above them, you can plant anything you’d like.

Roman quickly recognized the benefits of using an aquaponics system since the fish basically provide the nutrients for the plants. It’s a natural symbiosis between the fish and the plants.

You get to grow all kinds of vegetables this way, including salads, herbs, tomatoes, peppers, melons, eggplants, and more. What’s best about the Urban Farmers’ aquaponics system is that the method is very resource-efficient as it uses about 90% less water compared to conventional agriculture, and the company produces almost no waste.

In the beginning, Urban Farmers used recycled cargo containers and greenhouses on top before the company started doing its business on top of supermarkets, with plenty of space to produce approximately five tons of vegetables and 800 kilograms of fish year in, year out.

Micro and Macro Helping Hands

Urban Farmers was lucky enough to go through a total of 6 funding rounds in the course of its existence. These were made possible thanks to the four investors who helped this company become the force to change the course of the future by providing high-quality goods for society.

The philanthropist organization, Venture Kick, gave its first investment of CHF10,000 to Urban Farmers on March 1, 2011, when the company was established. Then, the investors provided the company with an additional sum of CHF20,000 more on August 31, 2011, and again on March 27, the following year, further boosting its funds by CHF100K more.

However, this wasn’t the only investor. There were contributions of CHF700,000 from an anonymous investor in 2013, CHF2.1M from Eckenstein-Geigy-Stiftung, Walden Woods Holdings on April 1, 2015, and another €2.7M from Stimuleringsfonds Volkshuisvesting Nederlandse on Oct 15, 2015.

All these funds allow Urban Farmers to have the first project UF001 LokDepot in Basel, Switzerland, as a pilot commercial rooftop farm. Then the company continued with UF002 De Schilde in Hague in 2016, and so on. Today, Urban Farmers widened its project to Switzerland, the Netherlands, the US, and Brazil.

No Wind Is Strong Enough to Knockdown a Good Idea

The main obstacle for this company was putting Urban Farmers on the map. This turned out not to be a significant hurdle as the idea was so good that it snowballed into a miraculous reality everyone accepted and wanted more of.

Before Roman set out to turn his green idea into reality, he had to fend off the competition coming from companies like Amatheon Agri, ForFarmers, and Mowi, among a few others.

Finding an alliance with nature was the other block to be overcome, as the company had to construct a symbiotic design to withstand winds and other natural forces and changes. Thanks to Mark Durno, the managing director, and other team members, including engineers, the rooftop greenhouses were designed to resist storm winds of up to 40m/s.

The delivery problem was nowhere to be found as the food was growing a few stories above consumers’ heads.

Future Vision

One of the most important upcoming projects of Urban Farmers includes making organic food available in all cities worldwide. The strategy of giving the people what they want and need sees no barriers as the funds speak for themselves. Having wealthy investors cover any company’s back speaks volumes of the company's quality radiates.

Headquartered in Zurich, Urban Farmers employs around 25 people as equally passionate about sustainable farming as Roman himself. According to Urban Farmers’ CEO and Founder, Roman, it would be best if everyone could grow their food without having to go to the supermarket, as Urban Farmers would provide these container-greenhouse installations for individual purchase.

It won’t be much of a surprise to the world if Roman sets out to make our planet greener and safer to live in any time now.