The Future of Food Production
Growing fresh produce in a controlled indoor environment using technological inputs has, in some cases, been around for almost two decades. But it has only recently started to gain traction because of climate change and sustainability concerns. The indoor farming technology market was valued at $23.75 billion in 2016 and is projected to reach $40.25 billion by 2022. Here in Salinas, California, Taylor Farms, North America’s leading producer of ready-to-eat salads and healthy fresh foods, recently announced that it’s investing in the emerging market of indoor growing.
Taylor Farms is investing in Pure Green Farms, a company that uses indoor farming to grow leafy greens in the Midwest. Pure Green Farms’ established facility in South Bend, Indiana, is a climate-controlled environment equipped with high-tech machinery that grows, packs, and ships leafy greens year-round. According to Taylor Farms, this expansion into indoor farming will complement their existing 122,200 crop acre field-grown program and 16 salad-producing facilities across North America.
What’s Indoor Farming?
As the name suggests, indoor farming is a method of growing crops or plants, usually on a large scale, entirely indoors. Unlike traditional farming that relies on Mother nature and the elements, indoor farming often relies on Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) technology. With this approach, the grower controls the environment in which plants grow from light, temperature, humidity, gases, and more. Indoor farms are designed to be incredibly efficient. They require 95% less water and 97% less land than conventional, open-field farms while growing leafy greens with scientific precision and without pesticides.
Benefits of Indoor Farming
With a diminishing amount of farmable land and an increase in the global population, indoor farming will play a key role in meeting the need for more food. Other benefits include:
- Bigger, more reliable yields to meet rising demand: Today’s centralized food production, with crops being grown where the climate conditions and land values are favorable, is no longer sustainable. It results in long and complicated supply chains, poor food quality, and enormous food losses. Because the environment in which plants grow in indoor farming is very controlled, and is not dependent on the seasons and weather, and is not subject to the availability of arable land, indoor farming can happen year-round, and yields are typically much higher than traditional farming methods. Indoor farms are also immune to other supply chain disruptions, such as those that hindered distribution during the pandemic, ensuring a reliable fresh produce supply.
- Provides fresh local produce: Indoor farms can be built next to urban centers, meaning fresh produce grown in indoor farms travels only a few miles to reach grocery store shelves compared to conventional produce, which can travel thousands of miles by truck or plane. For example, lettuce doesn’t have to sit inside a truck for days as it makes its way from California to the East Coast, losing both quality and nutritional value. With indoor farming, vegetables can be bred for flavor rather than storage and yield.
- Environmental sustainability: Not only could indoor farming help provide fresh local produce, but it has the potential to help slow down climate change by being more sustainable – using less water and producing fewer emissions. 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from food production, and 18 percent of food production emissions come from the supply chain. By producing fresh greens and vegetables close to urban populations, indoor farming could help meet growing global food demands in an environmentally responsible and sustainable way while reducing distribution chains to offer lower emissions.
- Organic and sanitary food: Indoor farming systems are designed to produce a sanitary crop grown without pesticides in hygienic buildings monitored by computers, so there is little risk of contamination from bacteria like E. coli, which forced large recalls of romaine lettuce in 2019 and 2020. The lack of pesticide use is better for the environment and human health as it eliminates the risk of water contamination due to run-off and is in line with increasing consumer demand for non-GMO produce.
Indoor farming certainly has an increasing role to play in the future of sustainable food production. While indoor farming may not represent the future of all fresh produce production, it will become more prevalent for certain types of crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, leafy greens, and herbs. Customers increasingly recognize the reliability, consistency, and high quality of greenhouse-grown produce.
If you’d like more updates like these or technology tips, don’t hesitate to contact us today.