Is Indoor Farming the Future of Agriculture?

Rachel Smith, Applied Technology Review | Monday, May 17, 2021

Technologies that provide, monitor, and control climate, light, water, and nutrients are deployed in indoor growing facilities and are fundamental to maintaining optimal conditions.

FREMONT, CA: World hunger and food security remain complex issues in today's society. With a decreasing amount of farmable land and a boost in the global population, indoor agriculture can assist with the hurdles that lie ahead. Indoor agriculture will play a vital role in meeting the requirement for more food. The technologies these facilities embrace will open up a wealth of potentials, jobs, and alternative investment opportunities that redesign both urban and agricultural landscapes.

One of the intriguing features of indoor agriculture is that it is a microcosm of the food system. Whether within a greenhouse or a sunless environment, this way of farming spans production to consumption, with several indoor operators marketing their products to consumers as branded products. The COVID-19 pandemic rippled through and affected each aspect of that system, at times magnifying the hurdles and at others, boosting change and growth. This landscape shows a subset and serves to highlight innovative players using digital and information technology to improve and optimize indoor food production at scale.

The pandemic highlighted the shortcomings of the current supply chain and heightened consumer needs to know where their food comes from, how securely it was processed and packaged, and how far it has traveled to reach them. A vital aspect of indoor farming is its built-in ability to respond to these and other hurdles of the present food system. Indoor farmers can locate their processes near distribution centers and consumers, mitigate food miles and touchpoints, potentially offer consistently fresher produce and lower food waste, and claim the coveted local distinction. Automation of seedling production activities is well established for most crops in indoor farming. 

Indoor farmers market theirs produces as local, fresh, consistent, and clean. This story resonates with consumers as the growers seem to be selling what they can produce, with several reporting significant sales growth. The direct connection to consumer issues is also a vital part of their potential to sell their branded products at a premium, which has been vital to financial viability for some growers. Farming has been under increasing pressure to function more sustainably, and indoor growers have incorporated sustainability prominently into their narratives with their efficient use of resources.

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