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The decarbonization promise of indoor agriculture is still in the seed stage


One chef prepares a salad using lettuce grown in the fields around Monterey, where farmer discards poor quality lettuce, uses diesel-powered machines to pump water and harvest the crop, and applies fertilizer and pesticides. The other chef uses lettuce grown from an indoor farm, that is grown using precise quantity of water and nutrients and no heavy machinery. While the latter option seems more environmentally friendly, in the current situation the former is better bet. The biggest issue with the indoor farming is the use of electric energy. The WWF measures the total environmental harm using a single score – the lower the score, the lower the environmental impact. At present, the indoor farming can have a score three times higher than the conventional farming. Beyond this, indoor agriculture does provide many benefits – it saves water, avoids pesticides and significantly reduces waste. It also requires less space. As the society moves towards renewable energy sources, it is likely that indoor agricultural methods will gain in popularity.

Key Takeaways:

  • At the moment, indoor farming doesn’t necessarily use less carbon than traditional methods.
  • The high use of electricity required for indoor growing makes it less environmentally friendly.
  • However, new technology like LEDs means that indoor farming might be greener in the future.

“Another reason is that indoor ag’s energy problem is likely to become less serious. Market forces are already adding renewables to the U.S. electricity mix and pushing out coal. Technology improvements in the pipeline also will cut energy use in indoor farms.”

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