Demand for spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) has increased over the past few decades and has long been a staple of CSAs (community-supported agriculture), farmers' markets, and direct-to-consumer markets. Currently, China produces upwards of 90% of the global market share. The United States follows in a distant second, with a handful of states (California, Arizona, Texas, and New Jersey) producing 90% of its share. Spinach is a quick-maturing crop that requires mild to cool temperatures to optimize growth, which limits its field production areas. When a large proportion of production is placed in a finite region, demand will, in due course, outpace supply as resources are depleted from the region. This inevitability creates opportunity. Enter controlled environment agriculture, commonly acronymized as CEA.
Spinach is among the most nutrient-dense of all vegetables, and consumers have come to expect a high-quality product. This makes spinach a high-value crop that is ideal for CEA production. Yet, year-round production is not popular in CEA. That is because spinach production in CEA facilities comes with challenges. Growers have cited issues from germination to foliar and root disease as inherent deterrents.
Researchers from across the US are collaborating to address challenges like the one previously described. The goal is to help industry CEA growers overcome the barriers that inhibit spinach cultivation and profitability. The initial approach to this research project is prioritizing the challenges that need to be addressed through a brief questionnaire. We invite industry professionals and researchers who have interest in CEA spinach cultivation to complete a brief survey to help guide the principles of the project to create tangible results that could have immediate impacts on cultivators globally.
Completion of the survey takes approximately 5 – 10 minutes, and all data will be collected anonymously and disseminated publicly.