Introduction: In recent years, innovative sustainable agricultural production technologies, including vertical farms and plant factories, have been developing rapidly around the world. The development of plant factories and vertical farms is currently receiving a lot of attention from Chinese academia and industry. However, the recognition and satisfaction of the government, producers, sales companies, and consumers are low, and their attitudes are mixed, mainly due to high pre-construction and post-operation costs, low comprehensive utilization of resources, low product diversity, low market share, high prices, and low core competitiveness, which limit its healthy and sustainable development. This paper designed a questionnaire from the perspectives of industrialization, commercialization, and sustainability in order to understand the respondents' level of awareness, doubts and concerns, purchase intentions and consumption expectations, as well as their trust and recognition of branded products in this new agricultural production system.
Method: To determine the diversity of respondents, this paper examines the group structure of participants from management, research and development, manufacturing, sales, consumers, regional development, and other industrial sectors. The survey was conducted using both face-to-face interviews and electronic questionnaires. As an online survey, the questionnaire was distributed to social groups through social media platforms. A total of 729 valid questionnaires were submitted. For the purposes of categorizing, enumerating, compiling statistics, and analyzing the questionnaires used in this study, descriptive statistics, multi-factor cross-analysis, and other statistical methods were employed. The social roles, functions, and interaction styles of various plant factory practitioners are examined from the perspective of social relationships, and pertinent development concepts and suggestions are proposed based on the survey results.
Results and conclusions
The study found that an increasing number of consumers understand and accept this new form of plant production and are willing to purchase plant products from plant factories and vertical farming. Plant factories and vertical farms are widely regarded as one of the most important methods of future urban agricultural production. Awareness, purchase intent, price expectations, brand awareness, and price expectations of plant factories and vertical farms varied significantly by gender, age, education level, occupation, and income. In addition, there are numerous findings that provide governments, producers, marketers, managers, and consumers with great value and assistance.
We should take the opportunity of developing plant factories to adjust the structure of the plant industry, enrich the "vegetable basket" of urban residents, increase the supply capacity of the market, enhance agricultural modernization and technological innovation, improve the quality of agricultural products from plant factories, strengthen the brand sales of plant products, and develop more functional plant products with high added value. Through the development of plant factories and vertical farms, we can improve the nutrition and healthy diet structure of citizens' diets, increase the modern plant industry's contribution to the national economy, and promote the comprehensive and sustainable development of the urban productive plant industry.
Read the complete paper at frontiersin.org