Controlled environment agriculture (CEA), also known as indoor farming, is becoming increasingly popular because it allows for better management of growing conditions. Crops grown indoors can be grown all year round and are not dependent on external weather conditions.
Indoor farms also have the potential to help slow climate change, as they tend to use less water and produce fewer emissions. Gelponics was developed as a more sustainable plant growth media for use in various agricultural settings, including indoor farms, as it can significantly reduce an organisation’s carbon footprint.
The environmental impact of outdoor farming
Farming ranks highly on the list of things with a significant environmental impact, thanks to its requirement for a large amount of fresh water, the associated greenhouse gas emissions, and the enormous land use needed.
Water consumption is a big issue, as not only are large amounts of water needed for outdoor farming, causing environmental pressures in areas of water stress but a large amount of this water is also wasted – either evaporating before it is absorbed by crops or leaching into the ground.
Another significant environmental issue associated with outdoor farming is pollution from fertilisers and pesticides, as chemicals leach the ground or run into the water supply.
The transportation of food also harms the environment, thanks to the amount of fossil fuel used. Another downside to produce transportation is nutrient loss, as the food is less fresh than it would be if it were grown locally.
Introduction to indoor farming
In our “What is vertical farming” blog, we cover the topic of indoor and vertical farming in depth, including what it is, how it works, the benefits associated with it and why it is important. In brief, indoor farming is growing crops indoors with grow lights replacing the sun’s rays.
The advantages of indoor farming are numerous, but the main ones are:
- year-round production
- reduced land requirements
- water conservation
Gelponics: A sustainable solution for indoor farming
Gelponics products have been developed to improve the water retention of growth mediums and sustainably support crops throughout the growth lifecycle. They are a more sustainable replacement for coir, peat and rock wool as they have a low-carbon footprint and are 100% compostable. Using Gelponics as part of your indoor farming solution will help you control fertiliser use, save water and reduce complexity.
Indoor farming vs outdoor farming: Comparing environmental impact
#1 Land Usage
Data shows that half of the world’s habitable land is used for outdoor farming, with three-quarters of this used for livestock production – despite meat and dairy making up a much smaller share of the world’s protein and calorie supply.
The World Economic Forum states that one of the main advantages of indoor farming is that more food can be grown in less space, with items such as abandoned mine shafts, shipping containers and underground tunnels all being turned into vertical farms.
#2 Water Consumption
Exact figures for how much water is used in agriculture are hard to come by, but it is estimated that outdoor fields require around 22Mm3 annually – with 85% of this coming from the mains water supply. 70% of global freshwater is used for agriculture, with 78% of global ocean and freshwater eutrophication being caused by agriculture.
In contrast, some vertical farmers have said they use around 250 times less water than a traditional farm.
#3 Pesticide and Fertiliser Usage
Traditional farms must find ways to fertilise crops to drive away pests and weeds, but many of these chemicals leach into the ground or run into water supplies.
This isn’t a problem in the controlled environment of a vertical farm, as everything is closely controlled, so there is minimal use of pesticides needed.
So, vertical farming has a lot going for it in terms of being a more sustainable option for producing the crops we need to grow and thrive.
If you want to get in on this agricultural revolution with the support of Gelponics, please get in touch with us today.