While controlled environment agriculture continues to expand, there is still the question of whether it can simultaneously achieve both economic and environmental sustainability.

Even as controlled environment agriculture companies go out of business or file for bankruptcy, investors see economic opportunities. New indoor farms are coming online, and others are expanding their operations. These investors, however, often overlook the economic and environmental sustainability issues of growing food without sunlight and focus on CEA’s yield advantages over traditional outdoor farming.

“Some people confuse profitability with environmental sustainability,” said Bruce Bugbee, professor of crop physiology at Utah State University and president of Apogee Instruments. “Not all things that are profitable are good for the environment. We often assume that indoor ag is good for everyone.

“If a grower can stay in business, it must be good for the environment. That’s not necessarily the case. A company that stays in business is economically sustainable, but this doesn’t always mean it’s environmentally sustainable.” Bugbee presented the keynote address at the recent GLASE 2023 Summit, which focused on Greenhouse Energy Resilience.

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