Indoor farms with vertically stacked crops & LED lighting

Is there a new agricultural revolution on the horizon?
A recent piece on the show TechKnow prompted me to look into this. Here’s an example: http://www.gereports.com/post/105532612260/the-future-of-agriculture-indoor-farms-powered-by
LED lighting gets rid of the heat problem with other kinds of indoor lighting. Also, plants only need certain parts of the spectrum of light to grow optimally. They seem to be beginning to find optimal light colors for different crops and there may even be optimal lighting per different parts of an individual crop’s growth cycle.
Other advantages are that crops can be grown year round, without concern for vagaries of weather. Also no insecticide is needed. The crops are so clean, you can pick a piece off the branch and eat it. Also, water can be used in a most conservative way.
For relatively short (in height) crops, many vertical stacks can be grown, so the acreage needed is vastly decreased.
It seems to me that traditional farmers should consider building such agricultural warehouses and converting their massive land areas to solar and wind farming.

Is there a new agricultural revolution on the horizon? A recent piece on the show TechKnow prompted me to look into this. Here's an example: http://www.gereports.com/post/105532612260/the-future-of-agriculture-indoor-farms-powered-by LED lighting gets rid of the heat problem with other kinds of indoor lighting. Also, plants only need certain parts of the spectrum of light to grow optimally. They seem to be beginning to find optimal light colors for different crops and there may even be optimal lighting per different parts of an individual crop's growth cycle. Other advantages are that crops can be grown year round, without concern for vagaries of weather. Also no insecticide is needed. The crops are so clean, you can pick a piece off the branch and eat it. Also, water can be used in a most conservative way. For relatively short (in height) crops, many vertical stacks can be grown, so the acreage needed is vastly decreased. It seems to me that traditional farmers should consider building such agricultural warehouses and converting their massive land areas to solar and wind farming.
Sounds like a good plan. I wonder if there's a downside. Lois
Is there a new agricultural revolution on the horizon? A recent piece on the show TechKnow prompted me to look into this. Here's an example: http://www.gereports.com/post/105532612260/the-future-of-agriculture-indoor-farms-powered-by LED lighting gets rid of the heat problem with other kinds of indoor lighting. Also, plants only need certain parts of the spectrum of light to grow optimally. They seem to be beginning to find optimal light colors for different crops and there may even be optimal lighting per different parts of an individual crop's growth cycle. Other advantages are that crops can be grown year round, without concern for vagaries of weather. Also no insecticide is needed. The crops are so clean, you can pick a piece off the branch and eat it. Also, water can be used in a most conservative way. For relatively short (in height) crops, many vertical stacks can be grown, so the acreage needed is vastly decreased. It seems to me that traditional farmers should consider building such agricultural warehouses and converting their massive land areas to solar and wind farming.
Sounds like a good plan. I wonder if there's a downside. Lois What happens when a particular crop requires pollinating?
Is there a new agricultural revolution on the horizon? A recent piece on the show TechKnow prompted me to look into this. Here's an example: http://www.gereports.com/post/105532612260/the-future-of-agriculture-indoor-farms-powered-by LED lighting gets rid of the heat problem with other kinds of indoor lighting. Also, plants only need certain parts of the spectrum of light to grow optimally. They seem to be beginning to find optimal light colors for different crops and there may even be optimal lighting per different parts of an individual crop's growth cycle. Other advantages are that crops can be grown year round, without concern for vagaries of weather. Also no insecticide is needed. The crops are so clean, you can pick a piece off the branch and eat it. Also, water can be used in a most conservative way. For relatively short (in height) crops, many vertical stacks can be grown, so the acreage needed is vastly decreased. It seems to me that traditional farmers should consider building such agricultural warehouses and converting their massive land areas to solar and wind farming.
Sounds like a good plan. I wonder if there's a downside. Lois What happens when a particular crop requires pollinating? I don't know if they've gotten that far along. There are actual farms in existence, now, supplying local markets with some limited kinds (for now) of crops. But adding butterflies, (or even mild mannered bees) seems to me, wouldn't be much of an obstacle to overcome. Interesting to note: Reportedly, the emerging marijuana industry was, initially, behind some of the advancements in the agricultural uses of the LED lighting.

Its an interesting approach but I think it will have limited applications. LED’s are very expensive and so are electricity and indoor space. There may be places where this makes sense but it won’t replace the millions of acres of outdoor crops that we currently plant.
I am also suspicious of the claim that this is a greener way of growing plants with a smaller carbon footprint (unless you are comparing it to existing indoor farming technologies). On an energy level at least that is not true. Outdoor plants get their light directly from the sun. Indoor plants use artificial lighting which is produced primarily by burning fossil fuels. Even if renewable sources like solar are used, converting sunlight to electricity and electricity back to light introduces dramatic inefficiencies and increased costs. Power and resources have to be used to produce all of this technology. This has to be balanced against the reduced use of fuel for tractors and combines.
There are probably differences in labor which also go into these calculations. I wouldn’t be surprised if the indoor farms required more labor per pound of food produced but I could have it backwards.
I’m sure someone has done all this math and decided that indoor farming only makes sense for certain types of crops in certain parts of the world or facilities like this would be more ubiquitous

Its an interesting approach but I think it will have limited applications. LED's are very expensive and so are electricity and indoor space. There may be places where this makes sense but it won't replace the millions of acres of outdoor crops that we currently plant. I am also suspicious of the claim that this is a greener way of growing plants with a smaller carbon footprint (unless you are comparing it to existing indoor farming technologies). On an energy level at least that is not true. Outdoor plants get their light directly from the sun. Indoor plants use artificial lighting which is produced primarily by burning fossil fuels. Even if renewable sources like solar are used, converting sunlight to electricity and electricity back to light introduces dramatic inefficiencies and increased costs. Power and resources have to be used to produce all of this technology. This has to be balanced against the reduced use of fuel for tractors and combines. There are probably differences in labor which also go into these calculations. I wouldn't be surprised if the indoor farms required more labor per pound of food produced but I could have it backwards...
Yeah, we'll have to see how it plays out. But there are some obvious advantages. Indoor farming on a grand scale could be done locally, so that could decrease transportation costs. There are clear start up costs that will surely limit this industry from taking off dramatically, right away. The shear scale of traditional agriculture that goes on, could not realistically be replaced overnight by this emerging industry. And some crops, simply may not be, practically, amenable to the approach. As to direct sunlight being cheaper than LED lighting, that seems right. However, being able to produce food products all year round, and not losing crops to freezes, flooding, drought, insects and other critters, no need for insecticide, etc. seem, at first glance, to be possibly strong offsetting factors.
...I'm sure someone has done all this math and decided that indoor farming only makes sense for certain types of crops in certain parts of the world or facilities like this would be more ubiquitous
Actually, probably what will determine whether it takes off as a significant industry, is whether it becomes profitable on a small scale, and then, as they learn how to do it more effectively and efficiently, whether it becomes even more profitable. If that should occur, then, I suspect that someone/s (with extraordinary amounts of capital) will do the math, and only then would it become ubiquitous. Underlying this approach has been relatively recent improvements in LED light efficiencies and uses. And they seem to be discovering how better use the lighting, as they go.

There are 3 massive problems with conventional farming methods which are eliminated by vertical farming:
1.) Pesticide runoff, which kills plants away from the farms (milkweed plants are said to be particularly vulnerable to RoundUp and without them, there are no more monarch butterflies).
2.) Fertilizer runoff, this causes algae blooms that lead to fish die offs.
3.) Labor problems. Migrant farm workers tend to have a pretty horrific life, and are paid a pittance for their labor. Vertical farms will be mostly automated, so there will be no need for migrant workers to be exposed to things like massive levels of pesticides or beaten because farm owners don’t want to pay them.

And the workers that are needed, will be needed year round, not seasonally. Here’s an example of a business that is currently functioning:
http://www.newscenter.philips.com/main/standard/news/press/2014/20140509-philips-and-green-sense-farms-usher-in-new-era-of-indoor-farming.wpd#.VLV2q-85C1s

Is there a new agricultural revolution on the horizon? A recent piece on the show TechKnow prompted me to look into this. Here's an example: http://www.gereports.com/post/105532612260/the-future-of-agriculture-indoor-farms-powered-by LED lighting gets rid of the heat problem with other kinds of indoor lighting. Also, plants only need certain parts of the spectrum of light to grow optimally. They seem to be beginning to find optimal light colors for different crops and there may even be optimal lighting per different parts of an individual crop's growth cycle. Other advantages are that crops can be grown year round, without concern for vagaries of weather. Also no insecticide is needed. The crops are so clean, you can pick a piece off the branch and eat it. Also, water can be used in a most conservative way. For relatively short (in height) crops, many vertical stacks can be grown, so the acreage needed is vastly decreased. It seems to me that traditional farmers should consider building such agricultural warehouses and converting their massive land areas to solar and wind farming.
Sounds like a good plan. I wonder if there's a downside. Lois What happens when a particular crop requires pollinating? I don't know if they've gotten that far along. There are actual farms in existence, now, supplying local markets with some limited kinds (for now) of crops. But adding butterflies, (or even mild mannered bees) seems to me, wouldn't be much of an obstacle to overcome. Interesting to note: Reportedly, the emerging marijuana industry was, initially, behind some of the advancements in the agricultural uses of the LED lighting. I wonder if Monsanto is working on GMO marijuana seeds. They could easily corner and control the market. Lois
...I'm sure someone has done all this math and decided that indoor farming only makes sense for certain types of crops in certain parts of the world or facilities like this would be more ubiquitous
Actually, probably what will determine whether it takes off as a significant industry, is whether it becomes profitable on a small scale, and then, as they learn how to do it more effectively and efficiently, whether it becomes even more profitable. If that should occur, then, I suspect that someone/s (with extraordinary amounts of capital) will do the math, and only then would it become ubiquitous. Underlying this approach has been relatively recent improvements in LED light efficiencies and uses. And they seem to be discovering how better use the lighting, as they go. I can imagine indoor farms with much acreage devoted to solar panels, making the electricity they need very cheap. The roofs of indoor farms could be retractable to let in the sunshine during warmer months--and the bees and butterflies. As with most innovations, it all depends on the bottom line. No one is going to invest in indoor farming on a large scale if it doesn't pay. It will probably work out that some crops will do well indoors and others, such as wheat and corn that need lots of space, will still be cultivated in fields as they are now. Lois
I wonder if Monsanto is working on GMO marijuana seeds. They could easily corner and control the market. Lois
Marijuana seeds have already been modified by the underground producers, through selective breeding, in the long fruitless war on marijuana. There are a plethora of varieties, most with much greater THC content than, I imagine, would have been the case, had there never been a war on marijuana. I don't think Monsanto could control the marijuana market any more than the govt has, heretofore. But thanks for the scary thought.
...I'm sure someone has done all this math and decided that indoor farming only makes sense for certain types of crops in certain parts of the world or facilities like this would be more ubiquitous
Actually, probably what will determine whether it takes off as a significant industry, is whether it becomes profitable on a small scale, and then, as they learn how to do it more effectively and efficiently, whether it becomes even more profitable. If that should occur, then, I suspect that someone/s (with extraordinary amounts of capital) will do the math, and only then would it become ubiquitous. Underlying this approach has been relatively recent improvements in LED light efficiencies and uses. And they seem to be discovering how better use the lighting, as they go. I can imagine indoor farms with much acreage devoted to solar panels, making the electricity they need very cheap. The roofs of indoor farms could be retractable to let in the sunshine during warmer months--and the bees and butterflies. As with most innovations, it all depends on the bottom line. No one is going to invest in indoor farming on a large scale if it doesn't pay. It will probably work out that some crops will do well indoors and others, such as wheat and corn that need lots of space, will still be cultivated in fields as they are now. Lois The problem here is that no matter how cheap solar panels are, even combined with LEDs they will always be far less efficient than absorbing light directly form the sun. There is absolutely no way around that. Even cheap solar cells are not cheap. So you will have a square meter of solar cells converting at most 20% of the sunlight into electricity and sending it to expensive LEDs that then convert 50% of the electricity into light. Ultimately you are getting only 10% of the original light to the plants and probably paying several hundred dollars for every square meter of light you deliver. There are going to have to be large efficiencies somewhere else to make up for that marked inefficiency
I can imagine indoor farms with much acreage devoted to solar panels, making the electricity they need very cheap. The roofs of indoor farms could be retractable to let in the sunshine during warmer months--and the bees and butterflies. As with most innovations, it all depends on the bottom line. No one is going to invest in indoor farming on a large scale if it doesn't pay. It will probably work out that some crops will do well indoors and others, such as wheat and corn that need lots of space, will still be cultivated in fields as they are now. Lois
Yeah, it will ultimately be about whether it is commercially viable. I was thinking that since the demand for cocoa is expected to exceed the conceivably available supply, in about 5 years, maybe cocoa plants would be a candidate. But there would be a lot of difficulties to overcome. The cocoa plants would be too tall, I think to be, practically, planted vertically. They require an annoying insect called midges, for pollination, who spawn in rotting vegetation. They require a certain level of high humidity, etc. So for crops with such natural obstacles for indoor growing, the price of the commodity would need to be high, indeed, I think, for them to become commercially viable, in this approach.

World’s Largest Indoor Farm is 100 Times More Productive | Urbanist
The statistics for this incredibly successful indoor farming endeavor in Japan are staggering: 25,000 square feet producing 10,000 heads of lettuce per day (100 times more per square foot than traditional methods) with 40% less power, 80% less food waste and 99% less water usage than outdoor fields. But the freshest news from the farm: a new facility using the same technologies has been announced and is now under construction in Hong Kong, with Mongolia, Russia and mainland China on the agenda for subsequent near-future builds.
http://weburbanist.com/2015/01/11/worlds-largest-indoor-farm-is-100-times-more-productive/
Does it really stack up?
http://www.economist.com/node/17647627

World’s Largest Indoor Farm is 100 Times More Productive | Urbanist The statistics for this incredibly successful indoor farming endeavor in Japan are staggering: 25,000 square feet producing 10,000 heads of lettuce per day (100 times more per square foot than traditional methods) with 40% less power, 80% less food waste and 99% less water usage than outdoor fields. But the freshest news from the farm: a new facility using the same technologies has been announced and is now under construction in Hong Kong, with Mongolia, Russia and mainland China on the agenda for subsequent near-future builds. http://weburbanist.com/2015/01/11/worlds-largest-indoor-farm-is-100-times-more-productive/ Does it really stack up? http://www.economist.com/node/17647627
I was going to say, vertical farming is probably something popular in Japan, where they had several "vertical" solutions to problems. Parking and business hotels come to mind.
...The problem here is that no matter how cheap solar panels are, even combined with LEDs they will always be far less efficient than absorbing light directly form the sun. There is absolutely no way around that. Even cheap solar cells are not cheap. So you will have a square meter of solar cells converting at most 20% of the sunlight into electricity and sending it to expensive LEDs that then convert 50% of the electricity into light. Ultimately you are getting only 10% of the original light to the plants and probably paying several hundred dollars for every square meter of light you deliver. There are going to have to be large efficiencies somewhere else to make up for that marked inefficiency
One thing, is that plants don't need the full spectrum of sunlight, in order to grow optimally. Though I'm not sure how that factors in, efficiency wise, but it must help a bit. Another thing is the efficiency of not losing crops to unfortunate weather extremes. Then there is the aspect of being able to produce all year instead of just seasonally There is some cost cutting, and quality improvement, I would think, from not having to use pesticides. There is probably more efficient use of water. Then there is the potential benefit of having some flexibility in locating the facility near populations that need or want the products. And most interesting, is the possibility that certain crops may grow faster and more perfectly from a certain recipe of light (certain spectrum colors) in accordance with the stages of its growth cycle. Ultimately, is all that enough to make up for the inefficiencies relative to not using direct sunlight and traditional growing methods? Maybe. Also, you are right, I think in pointing out that it is not, necessarily a "green" solution. (Though it is reasonable, I think to expect continued improvement in the efficiencies of solar energy use, as that industry continues to grow.) But the energy source for electricity can be, less favorable resources. The "green" that will matter, in regards to whether this approach takes off, will be (as usual in our world)... the color of money.