Modern greenhouses and vertical farming projects promise increased food output per unit area relative to open-field farming. However, their high energy consumption calls for a low-carbon power supply such as solar photovoltaic and wind, which adds to the cost and overall land footprint.
This research uses geospatial and mathematical modeling to compare open-field and two indoor farming methods for vegetable production in nine city-regions chosen globally with varying land availability, climatic conditions, and population density. The researchers found that renewable electricity supply is more costly for greenhouses per unit energy demand satisfied, which is due to the greater fluctuation in their energy demand profile.
However, greenhouses have a lower energy demand per unit food output, which makes them the least land-intensive option in most of the analyzed regions. The results challenge the land-savings claims of vertical farming compared with open-field production. The research also shows that regionalizing vegetable supply is feasible in most regions and gives recommendations based on the regional context.
Read the complete research at www.nature.com.
Weidner, T., Yang, A., Forster, F. et al. Regional conditions shape the food–energy–land nexus of low-carbon indoor farming. Nat Food (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-022-00461-7