Turning Vacant Offices into Green Gold: Urban Indoor Farming in California

Post Category : borrow money, Commercial, Lending, Loan


Within commercial real estate, innovation and sustainability often drive success. As urban populations grow, the demand for locally sourced food is rising, and Urban Indoor Farming has emerged as a thriving and environmentally conscious investment opportunity. Investors can transform vacant office spaces into bustling urban farms through hydroponics or vertical farming. Let’s explore this fascinating category that is changing how we think about agriculture and commercial real estate.

About Urban Farming

Urban Indoor Farming is an innovative agricultural method that brings food cultivation into urban environments, particularly within buildings and vacant commercial real estate areas. If you’re new to this concept, here’s a brief overview of what it involves and why it’s a perfect fit for commercial real estate investment.

  • Utilization of Indoor Spaces: Urban Indoor Farming often occurs inside buildings, such as vacant office spaces, warehouses, or other commercial structures. It’s an ingenious way to convert unused property into productive agricultural land.
  • Vertical and Hydroponic Farming: Unlike traditional farming, Urban Indoor Farming frequently employs vertical farming techniques, where plants are grown in stacked layers or on vertical inclines. Hydroponic systems, where plants are grown in nutrient-rich water rather than soil, are also commonly used. These innovative approaches allow for the efficient use of commercial space.
  • Adaptability to Vacant Commercial Spaces: Urban Indoor Farming can be adapted to various commercial spaces, from small vacant offices to large industrial buildings. The adaptability and scalability of this farming method make it an enticing option for commercial real estate investors looking to maximize ROI.
  • Alignment with Global Trends: As cities grow and the demand for local and sustainable food sources increases, Urban Indoor Farming aligns perfectly with consumer trends and broader environmental goals.

In a nutshell, Urban Indoor Farming represents a cutting-edge opportunity to merge the worlds of agriculture and commercial real estate. It provides a solution to urban food demands and the challenge of vacant commercial spaces, turning them into vibrant, green, and productive environments. Whether driven by financial considerations or a passion for sustainable innovation, this form of farming offers a unique investment opportunity in the heart of our cities.

Key Reasons to Consider Upgrading

Urban Indoor Farming has recently emerged as an attractive opportunity for California investors. It aligns with sustainability trends and caters to the increasing demand for local produce.

Benefits of Urban Indoor Farming Upgrades:

  • Sustainability: Growing food locally reduces transportation emissions and fosters community engagement. It also supports water conservation as hydroponic systems use significantly less water than traditional agriculture.
  • Year-Round Production: Climate-controlled environments enable year-round cultivation.
  • Innovative Use of Space: Vacant offices can be revitalized, contributing positively to local economies.
  • Alignment with Health Trends: Urban farms often supply organic products, catering to health-conscious consumers.


  1. Plenty, San Francisco – This project involved the conversion of vacant office space into a vertical farming facility and boosted local food production, providing organic produce to nearby markets. On its website, the company touts the convenience of indoor, stacked growing systems: “Our growing system yields up to 350x more per acre than traditional farming. That means our farms are designed to grow as much produce as an entire regulation FIFA soccer field on the footprint of a single goal.”
  2. Urban Produce, Irvine – In 2014, this facility installed a high-density vertical growing system in an unused commercial space and began to cultivate crops. Urban Produce uses hydroponics to combat drought and keep their crops growing year-round. 
  3. Square Roots in Brooklyn, New York – Square Roots is an urban farming company based in Brooklyn, New York, that has successfully transformed unused warehouse space into a thriving indoor farm. The company has built modular, climate-controlled indoor farms inside shipping containers in a formerly vacant warehouse area. Square Roots utilized shipping containers to create modular farming units, each equipped with hydroponic systems, climate control, and LED lighting to produce a variety of leafy greens and herbs year-round, supplying local markets and restaurants.

Square Roots offers valuable insights for potential California investors. With a similar climate control and modular approach, investors in California can transform unused commercial spaces such as warehouses or large office areas into productive urban farms.


California offers various incentives for investors interested in Urban Indoor Farming. These incentives can significantly enhance ROI and facilitate project implementation:

  • Job Credits: Opportunities for job creation may lead to local or state tax credits.
  • Real Estate Tax Abatements: Certain jurisdictions may provide tax abatements for green initiatives.
  • Energy Efficiency Incentives: Investments in energy-saving technologies can qualify for rebates or credits.
  • Capital Improvement Projects (CIPs): Grants or low-interest loans may be available for urban agriculture initiatives.

How to Get Started

If Urban Indoor Farming resonates with you as a novel and impactful investment opportunity, here’s how to begin:

  1. Research: Study local California laws and regulations regarding urban farming.
  2. Consult Experts: Engage with architects or specialists with experience in urban farm conversions.
  3. Evaluate Potential Locations: Assess the suitability of your commercial property for indoor farming.
  4. Apply for Incentives: Identify and apply for local or state incentives to support your project.
  5. Develop a Business Plan: Outline a strategy that aligns with your investment goals and market demand.

Payback Period

The payback period represents the time it takes for the investment in urban farming within a vacant commercial space to generate sufficient revenue to cover the initial costs. In the case of indoor urban farming, several factors contribute to a potentially favorable payback period:

  1. Efficient Resource Utilization: Modern urban farming techniques like hydroponics and vertical farming can be more water- and energy-efficient than traditional farming methods. This efficiency can translate to lower operating costs and quicker recovery of the initial investment.
  2. Year-Round Production: Indoor urban farming allows for climate-controlled environments that enable year-round crop production. This continuous supply can lead to consistent revenue streams, contributing to a quicker return on investment.
  3. Local Market Demand: The growing preference for locally sourced and fresh produce in California can create a ready market for products grown in urban farms. Proximity to consumers reduces transportation costs, enhancing profit margins and shortening the payback period.
  4. Potential Incentives: California’s focus on sustainability might offer various incentives for urban farming ventures, such as tax credits, grants, or energy efficiency incentives. These can lower initial or ongoing expenses, contributing to a more favorable payback period.
  5. Flexibility in Crop Selection: The ability to grow a diverse range of crops allows for adaptation to market demands, ensuring that the farm produces what is most profitable at any given time. This adaptability can positively impact the return on investment.
  6. Community Engagement and Branding Opportunities: Urban farms in commercial spaces can also become educational or community centers. Offering tours or workshops can generate additional revenue streams and promote the brand, contributing to quicker payback.

Considering these factors, it’s essential to carefully plan and analyze the specific situation to determine a reasonable payback period for urban farming in a particular commercial space. Engaging with professionals with experience in this field, understanding local regulations, and performing a thorough market analysis will be key in accurately calculating the investment’s payback period. 

The innovative nature of urban farming and the alignment with California’s sustainability goals can make this a lucrative opportunity with a favorable payback period for investors looking to transform vacant commercial real estate areas.


Urban Indoor Farming offers a unique and forward-thinking avenue for commercial real estate investors in California. Whether you’re driven by sustainability, innovation, or pure financial gain, this avenue of improvement holds promise. Partner with Evoque Lending’s Commercial Team to explore loans for these remarkable improvements.