Indoor farms can grow vegetables close to cities, where there are lots of people to feed. Farming indoors can also extend the growing season in cold climates and protect crops from damage during extreme weather.
But growing food indoors is energy intensive, so it can produce a lot of carbon pollution.
“Lighting is a big factor,” says Erico Mattos of the Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering Consortium. “You have the heating and cooling systems, ventilation systems, all the systems that you have to control. So it’s really important for us to reduce this energy demand.”
Mattos’s group is working to reduce the energy used in indoor farms and greenhouses.
“The challenge is, how can we still provide all these inputs that the plants require, the crops require to grow, but using energy with the most efficient way as possible?” he says.
Researchers are tackling the problem from multiple angles. For example, they’re designing high-efficiency LED lights and they’re experimenting with ways to optimize specific crops’ growth with customized lighting, ventilation, and humidity controls.
Mattos says these technologies and systems will help make greenhouses and indoor farms more cost-effective and better for the climate.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.