As the world emerges from a pandemic that has kept about one in five people in their homes for weeks, it's little surprise that the idea of indoor farming is gaining traction. After all, we've had a lot of time to think about what we can do indoors — and maybe even ponder what we may have done outdoors that contributed to this mess.
"You wouldn't think farming, one of humanity's oldest and most crucial endeavors, would be on that list. But as the number of mouths that need to be fed has grown, so too has the need for arable land. To meet that demand, industrial farming, with its reliance on large-scale, intensive production of crops and chemical fertilizers, has dramatically transformed much of the Earth's surface. Along the way, it has erased vital wildlife habitats, addled our atmosphere with greenhouse gases and undermined the health of communities living near those lands.
Indoor farming, on the other hand, isn't as land intensive. In fact, new technologies and advancements in hydroponics are making it possible to grow crops without pesticides, soil or even natural light. And since indoor crops can be stacked vertically, there's no need for vast tracts of land. Imagine farms as downtown office towers, offering floor after floor of fresh produce," says the team with Mother Nature Network.
A recent study from the World Wildlife Fund confirms that indoor farming can save land and water. But it also identified a few hurdles. In the absence of sunlight, indoor operations have to rely on powerful artificial lights that use a lot of energy and produce so much heat that some indoor farms have to rely on air conditioning year-round. Ramping up the scale of those farms may only shift the burden from land to energy use — although, as the study notes, we can expect technology to improve energy efficiency.
In fact, the WWF puts so much stock in its potential, it's helping the city of St. Louis transform its network of abandoned caves into indoor farms.
Read more at Mother Nature Network.