Vacant industrial buildings cause a host of challenges for cities, from pests to declining land costs. The existence of these sites is also symptomatic of larger issues, like economic inequality and inadequate public transportation.

As cities address vacant buildings, opportunities arise: How can empty industrial plots be used to serve the greater good? One popular solution tackles the issue of food production.

In the face of economic challenges, weather changes, and the COVID-19 pandemic, farming practices have evolved more rapidly than ever, resulting in an increase in urban agriculture operations.

Urban agriculture is growing “in impact and importance,” according to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Government initiatives like urban agriculture grants and property improvement tax credits incentivize indoor operations that make use of abandoned industrial spaces.

A Columbia University study found that of the almost 8,500 acres of vacant land—including abandoned industrial buildings—in New York City, almost 5,000 would be suitable for urban agriculture operations.

Farming for Good
When vacant buildings are converted for farming operations, whole communities benefit. Benefits of retrofitting vacant spaces for farming include:

  • Accessibility of fresh produce
  • Job creation
  • Justification of the cost of maintaining old buildings
  • Reduced food waste
  • Food education for children and communities
  • Restored buildings increase property value

With urban agriculture on the rise, architects will need to understand how to convert abandoned spaces to meet the needs of grow operations. This includes strategic space planning and specifying the right type of lighting for these unique projects.

For successful urban agriculture operations, focus on lighting

Advanced LED horticulture lights increase crop yields and maximize the benefits—and profits—of indoor agriculture. The higher an operation’s crop output, the quicker the operation recoups its initial investment.
Light spectrum, in addition to key design elements, is of utmost importance for creating a strong return on investment.

Increase yields with far-red light
New research about the important effects of far-red light on crop yields have set a new gold standard for horticulture lights.

Until recently, far-red light was considered inconsequential to plant growth. New research by Dr. Shuyang Zhen has revealed the powerful effect far-red light wavelengths have on a plant’s photosynthetic rate. Lettuce grown under far-red light produced 30% more biomass.

Currently, the standard for horticulture lighting is a combination of red and blue light, or full-spectrum white light.

Based on Zhen’s findings, exposure to far-red light in addition to these standard wavelengths will increase yields and shorten production times for indoor farming operations.

For indoor farming operations, this means investing in LED grow lights with far-red wavelengths will boost profits for a more successful project and greater ROI.

Non-grow lighting for urban agriculture spaces
Of course, not every light in an indoor farming operation is a horticulture light. The buildings that house these indoor farms still require still require stylish, energy efficient lighting to meet human needs and create a beautiful space.

High performance LEDs and retrofit kits are especially useful for converting vacant spaces into stunning grow operations.

Additional grow light must-haves
While color spectrum is the most important factor for plant growth, there are additional factors to consider when choosing horticulture lights for a successful indoor farming project. When selecting grow lights, look for:

  • Sleek, lightweight construction for ease of installation
  • Long LED lifespan (50,000-plus hours) for decreased maintenance costs
  • High efficacy
  • Daisy-chain connectors for a flexible lighting layout that maximizes light output
  • Bluetooth compatibility for ease of use and decreased user error

For innovative horticulture lights that meet every indoor farming need, visit