In order to develop vertical farming and the CEA industry – or “Controlled Environment Agriculture” – in the future, vertical farmers need to reduce costs related to both operations and energy. Thankfully, it looks like one way of reducing energy costs in the near future will also be a way to reduce vertical farming’s carbon footprint.
According to a new study by Rystad Energy, solar energy can become 10 times cheaper than electricity from gas-based plants in the near future. This will make sustainable energy sources the most viable energy source for vertical farmers worldwide. Implications of this development include reductions of greenhouse gas emissions related to vertical farming, as well as potentially reduced production costs – leading to lower price points for vertically farmed greens.
Although renewable energy sources are still subjected to shortages and are not yet viable options all across the globe, development is accelerating. There are already a variety of green power sources potential farmers have access to that can offer a good proportion of the power needed for operations at a vertical farm. Also, sustainable industrial batteries, industrial hydrogen power cells, and other emerging technologies will most likely be able to be utilized in a vertical farming context in the near future.
The incredible opportunities that renewable sources of energy bring for positive change would help the industry thrive and can also help support the overall energy transition. Also, the building of solar farms can actually contribute to necessary shelter for plants and animals in areas of extreme heat and droughts.
Beyond renewable energy
Apart from the use of renewable energy, optimizing other technologies in the farms will both reduce production costs and increase yields. Building a farm that allows you to automate the production line, such as an Avisomo plant factory solution with Lowpad automation, will greatly reduce production costs.
Also, if we develop and make even more energy-efficient LED lights, this will reduce costs related to both lighting and air conditioning even further, as more efficient lights emit less heat. Another way of reducing cost per unit produced is to optimize the density of plants per square meter to a maximum. More plants within the space, with the same amount of light. Here it is important to consider that plant growth is enabled through the amount of photons that hit the actual leaf – so a too-high plant density might also be detrimental to growth.
LED lights have come a long way over the last few years. After the EU banned Halogen lamps in 2018, the cost of LEDs dropped by around 97%. And today, they are much more efficient, consume less power, have a significantly longer lifespan, and require lower maintenance than traditional lighting sources.
Nations and institutions worldwide are becoming more and more focused on finding solutions to climate and nature crises. Following this, we see an increased focus on finding alternative ways to produce food providing food safely with efficient use of energy – such as vertical farming. The CEA industry is no doubt extremely innovative and has the potential to solve world hunger issues in the future.
Vertical farming still has its fair share of downsides, including increased use of energy and carbon footprint. It still has a lot of potential to reduce its emissions, provided technological developments in related sciences and industries such as renewable energy, LED lights, robotics, and plant biology.
The combined development of these technologies might contribute to vertical farming becoming one of the primary sources of food production in the future, reducing humankinds’ dependence on fossil fuels and agricultural land – of which we have already reached peak availability.
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