After three years of debate and disagreement about the role of urban agriculture in Detroit, the city has announced a joint venture with Michigan State University to take urban farming to the next level. The initiative is called MetroFoodPlus Innovation Cluster @ Detroit, and Michigan State University has pledged to contribute $1.5 million over the next 3 years in seed money to get the ball rolling.
Michigan State University is already working globally on a broader initiative of trying to solve the problem of feeding an increasing world population, with similar projects in cities such as Johannesburg, Sao Paolo and Amsterdam.
Most estimates have the global population increasing by over 2 billion people over the next 40 years, with most of that growth in large cities. Figuring out a way to use an urban environment to grow food is therefore expected to be important over the coming years.
This latest announcement is a considerable achievement, considering just a few months ago the Detroit City Council was against any urban farming initiatives. However, that original plan by MSU would consist of almost 100 acres eventually dedicated to the project, with this latest announcement only expected to cover 8-10 acres. It’s a start, but hopefully once things take off all parties involved will see a need to expand in size and scope.
MSU still insists the plan is to have the Detroit project as the central hub of a global network of urban agricultural research facilities. Although no formal contracts have been signed, there is agreement that the jobs created would not be low wage farm hand style jobs.
Mayor Bing issued a written statement saying, “Detroit, with the assistance of MSU and many others, has the opportunity to redefine metropolitan food and agriculture for the 21st Century. We want to demonstrate that innovation based on metropolitan food production can create new businesses and jobs, return idle land to productivity and grow a more environmentally sustainable and economically vital city.”
The initial seed money is not enough to build the needed facilities, but will be used administratively as those involved seek government grants, as well as business and non-profit sources for donations. MSU and the city of Detroit have scheduled community meetings to address concerns for July 11th and 12th.