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The power of genetics and environment in indoor agriculture

With the CEA market’s rapid growth, breeders and growers alike are placing a greater emphasis on developing varieties best suited for indoor production. Focusing on the biology of the crop allows for the opportunity to create step changes in agronomic traits to improve unit economics, more consumer-focused traits create differentiated products, and ultimately for crops to be grown all year round that may not grow outdoors due to climate pressures, writes Vonnie Estes at

Dedicated breeding for vertical farms is a vast untapped opportunity.
Marc Oshima, co-founder of AeroFarms, says, “For vertical farms, breeders can shift their focus to qualities of primary importance to consumers: taste, aroma, texture, and other attributes related to quality. It is also important to have plants that are efficient in their architecture, such that they can be easily maintained and harvested in our unique environment.”

The biggest breeding targets for field-grown fruits and vegetables are disease resistance. Breeders are on a treadmill to stay ahead of the next disease in the field. It is not a matter of just swapping out disease-resistant genes for genes that confer good flavor, but CEA does allow breeders to not have to stay ahead of the next potentially devastating outdoor disease. Some diseases like powdery mildew are possible indoors but can often be controlled through management practices.  

The focus of breeding can shift to developing and accelerating the discovery of new crops, growing recipes, and efficiency improvements that can be replicated at a scale specifically designed for indoor systems. These changes benefit both producers and consumers. Growers will benefit from traits that allow for longer-lasting produce, quality, faster growing, and beneficial architecture. At the center of trait development for consumers is satisfying the need for flavor, taste, color, texture, and nutrition.

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