Urban agriculture by definition usually is agriculture, food-growing capacities within the city. We like to use the word 'metropolitan food' or 'metropolitan agriculture' and that we see the future not as growing food within the city but within the city, around the city and between cities.

Food is really a growing problem in many cities. It's a double-edged sword in the U.S. because food in the United States is not an issue. There is plenty of food. We export food. People don't regard food as an issue. But if I'm in downtown Detroit, and I can't find a grocery store within the city limits of Detroit, then that's a problem.

And for 72% of the people in the city of Detroit, they live in a food desert. Which means, basically, that they do not have access on a daily basis to fresh fruit and vegetables. Detroit we're talking about, something that we're calling MetroFoodPlus. We cannot talk about food in the future unless we also talk about energy, we also talk about water. So MetroFoodPlus is about food, energy and water in the city of Detroit.

Our goal, there, is to look at how we use larger scale agriculture and food production in the city and to take advantage of the blighted areas so we can have land-based agriculture and food production. And we want to look at maybe repurposing some of the buildings. In a city like Detroit that has a lot of abandoned buildings. So our concept is: Why tear them down?

How about thinking about the innovation and the technology that is needed to grow food indoors and create new business opportunity for people of Detroit and others who want to invest in that. How do we repurpose is the key in Detroit and how do we do that in such a way that we attract technologies from around the world, increase food production, create job opportunities and even take advantage of this wonderful capacity we have.

When we think about what this would look like, we think of a small physical footprint in the city. So this small footprint that we have we think will be a gathering place, a meeting place, a demonstration place and may be as large as 8 acres of land. But no more than that probably. So that we can not only resurrect the building, we can have some outside demonstration with hoophouses and other season-extending technologies.

Because we want the community to be on that site and looking in that site. And we want businesses from around Detroit, around Michigan, around the nation to be able to come there and see new systems that are designed for indoor growing. That we now have an authorizing environment to bring people together.

So our first venture in doing that is going to be shortly at the MSU facility at Tollgate near Novi. And it's a collection of community interests, of non-profit interests, or business interests. There will be representatives there from the city government, state government, from our university, from other universities. And we're asking that group to think about what is going to be the socially acceptable food system of the future in Detroit.

So what will be socially acceptable and provide ample quantities of healthy, high-quality food. And if we can get there, get that description, then we have the agenda framework. So we think that this first meeting of this coalition-building effort to help define what this means to our constituent groups, as well as to Michigan State, will go a long way in having an inclusive agenda that we can all live with, support and achieve.

This is the opportunity for Detroit to be a leader in the U.S. and around the world. Much like it has been with the auto industry for so many years and will continue to be in the future, that has the same potential for global food systems, urban food systems, metropolitan work in the future as well.