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The state of indoor farming in 2017
The indoor farming industry in the United States has been predominantly dominated by greenhouse crop production in the past. Tomato production is a staple greenhouse crop because growers can produce the crop more efficiently indoors. Now, due to decreases in technology costs (LEDs in particular) and an increase in local demand for food, we’re seeing an increase in alternate growing systems, particularly fully enclosed vertical systems.
When looking at the physical location of farms in the United States, there is a large concentration of greenhouses in rural areas of the Northeast, South, and Southwest. In the Midwest, 42% of responding farms are indoor vertical operations and 50% of respondents are located in urban areas. The highest concentration of container farms was located in the Southwest and the largest percentage of urban farms was in the West.
What are indoor farmers growing?
The five main crops grown were: leafy greens, microgreens, herbs, flowers, and tomatoes, with more than half of respondents growing leafy greens.
It’s important to note why these make good crops to grow indoors. It is costly to operate an indoor facility. In order to operate profitably therefore, farmers have to grow crops that are high revenue generating. To do this, you can grow crops that are specialty items, like flowers, or you can target crops that have quick growth cycles, like leafy greens. If you think about a vertical growing system, you want to grow crops that are physically short (so you can get many layers), that have short growth cycles (so you can turn your facility over many times), and are highly perishable (more valuable when grown locally).
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