Indoor farming is a new technology created as a response to the shortage of food in the world. It is the process of growing crops and plants (vegetables and fruits) self-sufficiently inside any structure.
Indoor farming is the practice of producing food crops in a controlled environment, in urban places, and indoors. Indoor farming is done using stationary or mobile structures used for farming in all four seasons.
Indoor farming is also known as urban farming, commercial farming, vertical farming, and controlled environment agriculture (CEA). Indoor farming has been gaining popularity in the last few years because of environmental factors such as climate change, population growth, and natural resource constraints.
A combination of elements such as climate, soil, water, and nutrients can be controlled by indoor farming technology to allow for food production anywhere in the world.
Indoor farming technology involves the integration of numerous technologies such as big data analytics, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) so that crops can be produced perfectly without any agronomic constraint.
Smart greenhouses allow farmers to grow a more extensive assortment of more profitable crops, including nutrient-rich herbs and leafy vegetables, which are frequently out of season in many places worldwide.
Aquaponics, aeroponics, and hydroponics are alternate farming techniques practiced under what is called ‘indoor or vertical farming’ in which plants are grown in a non-traditional way.
Indoor farming practices allow the farmer to maximize crop yields on a smaller area of harvestable land, which is excellent because it reduces the need for pesticides and herbicides, both of which harm natural ecosystems in the long run.
In the earlier days of indoor farming, wastewater from a fish tank was used to irrigate crops such as cucumbers and tomatoes in sand-filled grow beds. Nowadays, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), LED grow light, aeration systems, sensors, and monitors have all come together to help modern indoor farmers be more efficient with their crop production through indoor farming.
Traditional outdoor growing is largely dependent on weather conditions. Only seasonal crops can be grown. Weather conditions can be the biggest nightmares for farmers as thunderstorms, floods, droughts, or even snowstorms could damage crops overnight.
Organic farmers have to wait patiently during these harsh conditions and hope that their plants won't suffer from crop failure during the season because of the inclement weather conditions. But by growing indoors, farmers don't have to worry about the weather - they can control the climate inside and create a clean environment where there are no complications with caring for their plants.
By using a wide range of sensors in different kinds of environments–like heat, light, and moisture sensors–indoor growers are able to monitor their plants at all times.
Indoor crops are healthier alternatives to their outdoor counterparts. Pesticides and herbicides can have negative repercussions on human consumption while also further polluting our planet.
The outdoor crops are more prone to pests and other animal damage as they are exposed to the outer environment. In the summer of 2020, many countries witnessed a locust attack that devastated large areas of crops. Everyone saw how fast they traveled, and farmers could not take measures in time.
They had to spray large amounts of pesticides to protect whatever was leftover, but these chemicals eventually made their way into our supply chain. The pesticides and chemical fertilizers used are a root cause of major ailments like cancers, immune disorders, infertility, and cardiovascular diseases.
The current agricultural system is centralized. Fruits and vegetables travel thousands of miles before they reach us. During this long journey, they lose a considerable amount of nutritional value.
For example, spinach loses about 50-90% of its vitamin C within 24 hours of being harvested. This means that the vegetables and fruits one eats in cities, which have to be transported from all over the country, have way more lost nutrients than if it was grown closer to home, such as in indoor farms in cities near where people live!
The harvesting of fruits and vegetables often comes with high levels of waste occurring both before and after the harvest period. The first stage of this waste, pre-harvest loss, generally occurs due to the appearance of plant-born pests that manage to cause significant damage to crops and their growth despite farmers’ countermeasures.
Post-harvest losses usually occur soon after the products are successfully harvested because they are highly susceptible to spoilage - sometimes even getting rotten shortly after being distributed for sale. Indoor growing saves time spent on transportation; it also reduces wastage due to extended shelf life and is more environmentally friendly.
Food production systems that rely primarily on industrial agriculture practices are no longer the most efficient food security means. As more and more populations move to urban areas, more issues around accessibility and transport will arise, making centralized food production less practical for such an end. In some cases where supplier reliance becomes tricky, transportation or access problems may occur.
Urban Agriculture focuses on maximizing a space-use efficiency within cities rather than the broader countryside, thereby minimizing supply chain risks as much as possible. Shorter supply chains can reduce post-harvest losses and give people fresher produce. When people receive the vegetables within 2-5 hours of harvest, the vegetables’ nutritional content will also be the maximum.
Urban farming, therefore, has the advantage of a shorter food supply chain making its packaging requirements versatile. People can use eco-friendly paper containers and string bags, or compostable materials, or even reusable glass jars
Indoor Farming Technology Market
The global indoor farming technology market is expected to reach $12,767.3 million by 2026, with a CAGR of 14.80% during the forecast period 2021-2026. The global indoor farming technology market is expected to be driven by increasing demand for food products, fresh and organic produce, and the requirement for an alternative growing method for sustainable agriculture.
The supply chain got a massive blow in most industries due to COVID-19. Farms could not deliver products quickly to the market. However, now, vaccines are available in almost all countries, and lockdown restriction has been evoked. The distribution channels are getting normalized, and indoor farming companies are able to take care of marketing their products, which are growing.
The hardware system segment dominates the indoor farming technology market by technology category. This includes sensors, controllers, climate control devices, lighting systems, irrigation systems, and other devices. These hardware systems are known as a substitute for traditional farming, as they play a key role in regulating many manual factors.
The greenhouse segment dominates the global indoor farming technology market by facility category. Hydroponic techniques dominate the global indoor farming technology market by growing methods category.
North America generated the highest revenue of $1,877.1 million in 2020, which is attributed to the technological advancements in this region. It is also one of the biggest agricultural hubs in the world. The region is expected to witness high growth of CAGR 15.80% during the forecast period.
Indoor growing is an attractive alternative that can provide more accurate results as well as consistency in terms of production year-round. It’s even possible to maintain varieties that can only survive outdoors, such as certain tropical plants or certain flowers. This blog is a brief glimpse of how growing indoors is more beneficial as compared to conventional growing.
It is evident that in many cases, indoor farming has an edge. Indoor farming can never replace traditional agriculture. Outdoor agriculture is irreplaceable and economical for all plants, but with the help of indoor techniques, the world can revolutionize agriculture for the better.
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