Indoor Farming and the Age of Clean, Healthy Food
Fertilizer and pesticides are said to be among the best things to happen to food production, enabling farmers to produce immensely larger yields with less effort, but also protect the produce from any pests. This makes things a lot easier but creates other issues along the way. Traditional agriculture is quite reliant on these substances and in some cases tends to overuse them to the point of harm. Luckily, there is a new best thing happening to food production called indoor farming.
As the name suggests, it is a method for growing plants indoors, in a highly-controlled and monitored environment without using any pesticides or fertilizer at all. Instead, the plants are nourished via sophisticated nutrient delivery systems called hydroponics or aquaponics. But why is this so important and why is a shift from fertilizers and pesticides necessary?
Why are Fertilizers and Pesticides Bad?
The issue with fertilizers is that at least some parts of them end up washed away into a river or lake of some kind, resulting in the so called “dead zones” which are harmful for the fish. As for pesticides, their full effect on the human body is actually not completely known, but long exposure to such substances results in symptoms such as hand tremors and headaches. Simply put, pesticides and fertilizers help us produce both a larger quantity and better looking food, but might impact our bodies and certain wildlife negatively.
Despite a global decrease in the usage of these substances in recent years, the number is still pretty high: the amount of pesticides used in agriculture for 2007 was a jaw dropping 877 million pounds.
As you might have already concluded, all of us have probably had our fair share of pesticide-rich meals, but luckily indoor farming offers another alternative where mass produced food can actually be free of any harmful additives.
What Makes Indoor Farming a Better Alternative?
Let`s examine the indoor farming process in order to illustrate not only why the produce is free of any harmful substances, but also more environmentally friendly in general. An indoor farm called Bowery Farming is among the top innovators in the field with their so called post-organic produce. They grow plants in vertical rows, without using any harmful additives, while monitoring every growth stage and controlling exactly how much light and nutrients the plants receive.
Indoor farming is a form of agricultural science that addresses most of the challenges traditional agriculture has.
The Environmental Benefits of Indoor Farming
Indoor farming can be incredibly space and resource efficient, using close to 95% less water and much less land. Bowery manages to be 100 times more productive than a regular farm of the same size, while producing clean, pesticide free products.
Furthermore, indoor farms provide superiority in terms of transportation, as they can be located in almost any urban location, drastically decreasing costs.
There is a term called food miles, which describes the distance food travels before reaching your plate and the associated carbon emissions that were generated by it. Estimations show that a typical American meal travels a distance of 1500 miles!
According to a paper called “Food-Miles and the Relative Climate Impacts of Food Choices in the United States,” 17% of all food related emissions are attributed to transportation, while the rest are related to production.
Implementing indoor farming close to densely populated cities can drastically shorten the distance food needs to travel before reaching the end consumers and thus generate a smaller carbon footprint – your meal would have to travel no more than 50 miles to your plate.
Furthermore, by growing plants in a controlled environment every process can be tailored and adjusted according to specific needs, which makes the overall system very efficient and also results in fresh and healthy produce.
What Makes Indoor Farming Produce So Clean?
Conventional farming is a messy business with lots of dirt, insects, pests, uneven sunlight and water involved. Indoor farming is the exact opposite and consists of carefully calculated and adjusted processes, undisturbed by bad weather conditions and without CO2 emissions from tractors. As mentioned earlier, plants are often grown without soil, suspended in mid-air by using a hydroponic nutrients delivery system.
What truly makes the process shine, though, is the equipment used to replace the function of the sun. Advances in full spectrum LED grow lights make it possible to provide plants with the exact color spectrum they need for each stage.
LED grow lights help the plants grow healthy and good looking, ensuring quality consistency among the different batches without any genetic modifications. This is not only good environmentally, but also responds to the public`s opinion and interests.
Living and Eating Healthy
The 21st century has seen an unprecedented global shift towards a healthier lifestyle, and people are paying more attention to what they eat and how their food is produced. Naturally, countries putting the most efforts into indoor farming development and producing clean organic food are the ones where the environmental and food quality issues are most serious.
Specifically in Asia, where there has been news of melamine in baby food and bad meat being served in fast food restaurants, there is a rising demand for clean food, which in turn stimulates the indoor farming sector. As stated in a report called ‘The Rise of Asia’s Indoor Agriculture Industry’ – “Combined, these trends favor indoor growers whose vegetables are typically grown without pesticides and in at least semi-clean room conditions.” Furthermore, some governments provide support for stimulating indoor agriculture, such as subsidies or favorable loan conditions.
With the rising importance of issues such as climate change and poor food production techniques, indoor farming has the potential to bring major positive change. Although it might not be perfect at the moment, it is drastically improving and will continue to get more environmentally friendly and resource efficient, saving energy and cutting back on CO2 emissions while producing tasty plants.