Study on the perception of CEA among local food consumers

In recent years, new forms of high-tech controlled environment agriculture (CEA) have received increased attention and investment. These systems integrate a suite of technologies – including automation, LED lighting, vertical plant stacking, and hydroponic fertilization – to allow for greater control of temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, oxygen, and light in an enclosed growing environment. Proponents insist that CEA can produce sustainable, nutritious, and tasty local food, particularly for the cities of the future.

At the same time, a variety of critics raise concerns about its environmental impacts and energy use, high startup costs, and consumer accessibility challenges, among other issues. At this stage, however, relatively little research has explored actual consumer knowledge and attitudes related to CEA processes and products. Guided by theories of sense-making, this article draws from structured interviews with local food consumers in New York City to examine what people know and think about high-tech CEA.

From there, it explores the extent to which CEA fits into consumer conceptualizations of what makes for “good food.” Key findings emphasize that significant gaps in public understanding of CEA remain, that CEA products’ success will depend on the ability of the industry to deliver on its environmental promises and that concerns about “unnatural” aspects of CEA will need to be allayed. Given the price premium at which high-tech CEA products are currently sold, the industry’s expansion will depend in large part on its ability to convince value-oriented food consumers that the products meet the triple-bottom-line of economic, social, and environmental sustainability goals.

Read the complete research at

Broad, Garrett & Marschall, Wythe & Ezzeddine, Maya. (2022). Perceptions of high-tech controlled environment agriculture among local food consumers: using interviews to explore sense-making and connections to good food. Agriculture and Human Values. 39. 10.1007/s10460-021-10261-7. 

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