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Over the course of NYC Agtech Week, attendees from across the globe had the opportunity to attend workshops, learn about investment strategy and share in local food and spirits. There were hands-on experiences with everything from hyper-controlled, in-home grow setups to the sun and soil of area community gardens.
“For years, we have seen growers reap the benefits of using our LEDs in the cultivation of high-wire tomatoes. These range from higher yields and better quality fruit to more control over the growing climate and energy costs,” said Udo van Slooten, Business Leader Horticulture at Philips Lighting. “Now we see these benefits also being achieved by high-wire cucumber growers. We expect that the only way is up for LED in high-wire cultivation.”
“Controlled indoor growing changes the way how we approach our food system and enables providing consumers fresh food with distinct taste and nutrient profiles, produced in a complete circular and sustainable system”, according to PlantLab’s Marcel Kers when he welcomed us at their headquarters in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
“To this point, the city of Philadelphia has only ~8 acres of urban farming, mainly because there’s no available land for growing crops traditionally. By bringing the growing process indoors, in line with our mission of social responsibility, we are revitalizing abandoned spaces and are using them for local food production. We are empowering a new generation of farmers to grow food for cities, in cities.
Urban farms could be set up for various reasons — as a hobby, for education or training, or for profit. For many, it’s a method to preserve traditional food philosophy, while for yet others, it provides a sense of ‘food justice’ — which is exercising their right to grow, sell and improve access to culturally-appropriate food, which is grown locally and affordable.
Urban farming itself is not new — people have always grown produce or raised livestock in towns and cities, from necessity, as a hobby or to reduce food miles. Now, however, city agriculturalists are harnessing technologies such as light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, 3D printers and data analysis to speed up growth and create farms virtually anywhere.
Thanks to hydroponics, microgreens can grow up to three times faster than in fields, using 90 percent less water. This method produces much less spoilage and can be done locally, making it much more sustainable when powered by renewable energy sources.
The hotel’s vegetables, red berries, salad leaves and herbs are picked every morning for lunch and dinner, ensuring the maximum freshness of the produce sourced from a completely local food network. Seasonal produce as well as rare varieties of strawberries and heirloom tomatoes is given priority, according to the brand.
Modern day vertical farming includes controlled environment agriculture technology i.e. CEA technology. All other environmental factors can be controlled using this technique. Techniques such as augmentation of sunlight by artificial lightning and by metal reflectors are also used for producing a similar greenhouse-like effect.
Extreme weather events like Enawo are becoming increasingly common, especially if hurricane season in the United States was any indicator this year. Yet, vertical farms, which can be situated in more mellow outdoor climates while dialing in the perfect conditions for indoor growing, might be uniquely positioned to produce these crops in spite of those weather events.