Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), sometimes referred to as vertical farming or indoor farming, has evolved dramatically over the past ten years with the advent of new technologies in LED lighting and software management systems that control the variables associated with growing plants.

CEA farming has proven itself as a viable method to grow crops at higher rates, up to 30 times higher than in traditional, open-field farming methods mainly because light, water, temperature, and carbon dioxide levels are directed to the crops more efficiently and consistently than nature can accomplish. CEA is not dependent on nature’s extreme weather patterns to achieve yields or consistent quality. Furthermore, this method allows for crop production year-round, while open-field farming is typically seasonal and completely weather-dependent.

One form of CEA is hydroponic farming, a method to grow crops without the use of soil altogether. Crops are grown directly in water and liquid nutrients are dosed in at optimum proportions for a given crop. The hydroponic approach reduces the amount of water needed to grow by up to 90% compared to traditional soil farming. Water not absorbed by the roots is recirculated and re-introduced to the crop throughout the growth cycle. In open-field farming, much of the water does not reach the crop and is essentially an excess runoff.

CEA farming on a hyper-local basis takes matters a step further in reducing the carbon footprint created by distribution modes of transportation, whether by air or land. Furthermore, hyper-local allows for a shorter window from harvest to consumption. This provides a more nutritious, better-tasting crop due to freshness. Typically, a head of lettuce as an example loses 50% of its nutrition value in the first 3 days after harvest. Lettuce sourced through traditional distribution channels takes 10-12 days from harvest to produce on an average. Therefore, it is drastically deficient in nutrients and flavour.

CEA provides the ability to maintain a sterile environment, isolated from birds, insects or animals, which are responsible for food-borne contaminations such as E.coli and Salmonella. These bacteria are eliminated, and it is particularly important for consumers with compromised immune systems. Furthermore, CEA allows for complete traceability of its harvests from seedling to maturity, where every single plant is monitored.

CEA farming is the convergence of proven technologies and the scientific knowledge base developed around crop behavior. CEA, in part, addresses the fundamental issues the world is facing in the food supply, water resources and energy usage. Arable land worldwide is at 90% usage; there is simply not enough land available to address future requirements as the world’s population is expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050. While the sole method of farming is not capable of addressing the world’s future food supply, CEA can be a part of the solution.



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