High-tech farming: The Light Fantastic (2)

As a continuation from the last post, using artificial light for indoor agriculture is not a new idea. Urban, indoor agriculture allows for more more efficient production, transport and consumption of the food produce.

First, the crops are grown in multiple tiers (layers). Water used to water the crops will flow from the upper layers, and will flow to the lower tiers, and be recycled continuously. Sensors can detect which nutrients are missing and provide them in small, accurate bursts. This makes the efficient use and application of water and fertilisers, minimising excessive use of energy. Also, LEDs are being used. They are far more efficient than the florescent lights, keeping electricity bills down. High efficiency generates lesser heat, so lights can be placed closer to the plants and crops can be planted more densely. Apparently, the wavelengths of the light can be fine-tuned so that crops like lettuce is crisper, or softer. The crops grow faster, and it is reckoned that LED in controlled, indoor environment may cut growing cycles by up to half compared with traditional farming.

Since the crops are produced in urban settings, these locally grown urban produce can travel shorter distances to reach their consumers.

I wonder if there is a geography, or a varying barrier-to-entry for different group of people in planting indoors with LED lights. Who can afford to engage in such high-tech farming? The cost of the LED lights (upon purchase) are higher than the traditional lighting, and definitely more costly than using the free natural lighting. This video  explains the pros and cons of using the different lighting system, and suggested that indoor planting can be available to many. While in the long run LED lights cost lesser due to their efficiency; at the point to purchase, its prices are high. This suggest that people with less purchasing power will have difficulty in adopting the indoor light farming model

Work cited:

The Economist, (2014). The light fantastic. [online] Available at: http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21602194-indoor-farming-may-be-taking-root-light-fantastic [Accessed 27 Mar. 2015].

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