June 14, 2018
Indoor farming startups have been popping up all over the country, attracting so much attention from investors that from 2016 to 2017, indoor farming investment grew by $235 million. The indoor growing industry has already become well-developed in Japan and the Netherlands, and now more than ever, North America is warming up to the idea. It’s easy to understand why hydroponic food production is gaining traction, considering that it’s extremely efficient and produces high yields with high quality.
Benefits of Indoor Hydroponic Growing
Commercial outdoor farmers have to contend with weather, seasonal changes and invasive pests. More importantly, their growing capacity is limited to the amount of arable land that is available. Indoor hydroponic growing maximizes the amount of crops that can be grown per square foot, whether it’s through aeroponics, NFT systems, Ebb and Flow systems or Dutch buckets. These systems also empower growers to gain the ultimate control over crops, so they can optimize every single aspect of the growing process.
Under such controlled conditions, the growing period is shortened significantly, boosting the amount of harvesting opportunities. Outdoor lettuce growers harvest up to five times a year, while indoor lettuce growers can harvest eighteen times a year. Industry experts have speculated that by the year 2030, half of all leafy greens could be grown indoors. Additionally, indoor growers don’t have to rely on growing plants that are engineered to resist pests and drought. Instead, they are able to focus on enhancing nutrient density and flavor.
Indoor farming substantially shortens the time between harvest and delivery. Traditionally grown produce typically spends anywhere from a few days to several weeks on the road before it reaches the drop-off point. Since many indoor farms are located in cities, crops get delivered to nearby markets, restaurants or directly to customers within hours. Not only does this reduce carbon footprint, it preserves freshness and nutrients as well.
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Complete Environmental Control
Temperature, irrigation and lighting are all carefully engineered to duplicate the outdoors within a hydroponic farm. LED’s are the most common type of lighting used, as they provide the warmth and light spectrum plants need in a highly-efficient manner. Some indoor farming facilities use high-tech water sensors that monitor each plant’s water needs and then dispense it appropriately. The water that crops receive is pH-balanced, nutrient-rich and customized based on individual plants. Many hydroponic plants are on watering schedules, so any excess water is recycled through a closed loop irrigation system, minimizing water consumption. In addition, thanks to the tightly-controlled indoor environment, many indoor farms use very little pesticides, herbicides or fungicides on crops, if any at all.
With the acceptance of large-scale hydroponic farms growing, there is the potential for a dramatic shift in the way food is grown, harvested and distributed. As environmental technology becomes even more sophisticated, indoor farms across the globe will become more and more likely to achieve long-term success. The movement of crops from the soil to the indoors is not only highly efficient and environmentally-friendly, it can increase the production of nutritionally-superior food.
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