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Vertical Farming and Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)

AI-controlled Vertical Farms_050122A
[AI-controlled Vertical Farms - Plenty]

- Overview

Vertical farming is a practice that requires artificial temperature, light, water, and humidity control. It's more than just stacking plants. Vertical farming is the agricultural process in which crops are grown on top of each other, rather than in traditional, horizontal rows. 

Growing vertically allows for conservation in space, resulting in a higher crop yield per square foot of land used. Vertical farms are mainly located indoors, such as a warehouse, where they have the ability to control the environmental conditions for plants to succeed.

Combining agriculture and technology holds great promise in cities, deserts and even outer space. National Geographic recently (2022) predicted that by 2050 there will be more than 2 billion additional people to feed. 

However, the planet's irrigable land remains largely unchanged, making it increasingly difficult to feed this growing population. Vertical farming appears to be a key tool in feeding them — and without the huge carbon footprint of delivering food from far-flung farms.


- The Modern Indoor Vertical Farming

Vertical farming is a type of indoor farming that involves stacking produce from floor to ceiling, often under artificial lights and with the plants growing in nutrient-enriched water. Farmers can control the environmental conditions for plants to succeed, including light, temperature, water, and oftentimes carbon dioxide levels.

Vertical farming is a system of food production in a controlled indoor environment. This allows for factory-style precision farming. This approach can reduce the environmental impact and the impact of environmental changes related to future climate change on food production. Vertical farming allows for faster, more controlled production, regardless of season. 


- Urbanization and Its Implications for Food and Farming

As our metropolitan areas begin to expand into the countryside, the sustainability of traditional farming methods is being seriously questioned. It is estimated that at least 1.5 million acres of productive farmland are lost to urbanization in the United States each year. But what alternatives are being produced to meet our rapidly growing livelihood needs? 

Increasing urbanization and the high environmental and monetary costs of delivering electricity, water and food to cities suggest that low-impact forms of controlled environment agriculture (CEA) are becoming more common in urban environments. 

Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), commonly referred to as vertical farming, is the process of growing food or other agricultural products in a factory-like environment without the natural resources typically associated with plant production, such as soil and sunlight. Instead, these resources are delivered through the use of innovative lighting and nutrient delivery technologies. 

Agriculture has moved from fields to cities and into developed environments. CEA involves a combination of engineering, plant science, and computer-managed facility control techniques for optimizing plant growth systems, plant quality, and production efficiency, while optimizing resources including water, energy, space, capital, and labor. 

The environmental impact of urban CEAs can be greatly reduced through carbon-neutral energy supply, water recovery and recycling, and siting on pre-existing or underutilized structures.


- A New Future for Food Production

Vertical farming is a revolutionary way to produce large quantities of nutrient-rich, high-quality fresh food year-round without relying on skilled labor, favorable weather, high soil fertility or high water usage. It is fully enclosed and climate controlled, completely eliminating external environmental factors such as disease, pest or predator attack. 

Using state-of-the-art clean technology (agri-photonics), utilizing specialized light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and a fully controlled growing environment with no sunlight or soil (i.e. sensor-controlled hydroponic and aeroponics farming systems.), vertical (and rooftop ) farming or urban farming will grow plant or animal life within dedicated or mixed-use skyscrapers in urban environments. 

Instead of growing single-layer crops on large tracts of land, vertical farming grows piles of crops upward in existing underutilized warehouses or multi-story buildings. Indoor farms run by artificial intelligence (AI) and illuminated by LEDs may be more efficient than field farming.

Plenty, a San Francisco agtech startup co-founded by Nate Storey, has been able to improve its productivity and production quality through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and new farming strategies. The company's farm covers only 2 acres and produces 720 acres worth of fruit and vegetables. In addition to their impressive food production, they use robotics and artificial intelligence to manage production. 

The company says their farms produce about 400 times more food per acre than conventional farms in 2022. It uses robotics and AI to monitor the water consumption, light and ambient temperature of the plant growing environment. Over time, AI learned how to grow better quality crops faster.

[Jerusalem, Israel - C. Paul David]

- The Green Promise of Vertical Farms

Next-generation LED grow lights provide artificial light for plant growth. They provide low power, high efficiency, uniform light patterns, uniform light distribution, and precise wavelength and color ratios for superior photosynthetic response. Plant light has photons in the blue to red (400-700 nm) portion of the spectrum. This is called growing light. Plant growth is a function of photosynthesis. A

 simple example is in gardening, where low-cost light-emitting diodes (LEDs) emit synthetic blue and red light that can be programmed to effectively control the growth rate and color of vegetables, flowers, ornamentals, and fruits. 

The profitability of commercial gardening requires the ability to consistently provide plants with optimal growing conditions from germination to harvest in a cost-effective manner. Today's vertical farming monitors and controls air, water and nutrient levels to provide optimal growth needs through a fully integrated intelligent computer management system.


- Advantages of Vertical Farming

The advantages of vertical farms are numerous, including year-round crop production, faster harvest cycles, predictable results, unaffected by weather, use less water than conventional farming, superior food safety and less environmental impact, support Urban food autonomy and reduced transportation costs. Vertical farms are a new eco-friendly way to supply the vast quantities of fruits and vegetables needed in cities around the world. 

Vertical farming uses only 10% of the water used by traditional farming methods. The water produced by transpiration is also reused, so most of it is not wasted. In addition, 70% of available drinking water is currently used for agriculture, which can be reduced through vertical farming. Another advantage of vertical farming is the area required to grow crops/plants. Because vertical farms can scale upwards, there is much less land than when using traditional farming methods. 

Vertical farming can also grow food organically, because no pests damage crops, so no pesticides are needed. So it is healthier, safer and more environmentally friendly. Finally, price is another advantage of vertical farming. Vertical farming can be very expensive at first, but after the first few years it will become a cheaper form of farming. Also, the prices of crops/plants grown on vertical farms will drop.


- Disadvantages of Vertical Farming

Vertical farming also has some drawbacks, such as fewer jobs due to not needing people to transport crops. This will cause many people to lose their jobs, and farmers will lose their jobs. It leads to potential loss of traditional agricultural jobs. It replaced the entire agricultural society. The initial cost of installation is not attractive to developers. Reliance on technology is a major disadvantage of vertical farming. If a vertical farm loses power for a day, it will be a huge loss of production. Also, if there is a power outage, all crops will die because they rely on an artificial atmosphere that maintains 40 degrees Celsius and constant humidity. They rely on data collected from sensors to maintain ideal growing conditions. Finally, only a limited variety of plants or vegetables can be grown. This is because not all plants are suitable for growing in a controlled and limited environment.


- Renewable Energy and Vertical Farming

Vertical farming is a cutting-edge technology that allows growing plants in a controlled indoor environment. This farming method has many benefits, such as year-round production, reduced water usage, and the ability to grow a variety of crops in a small space. However, one of the biggest challenges facing vertical farmers is how to power their operations in a sustainable, cost-effective way. Renewable energy is one of the solutions.


[More to come ...]

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