Field farm vs Greenhouse vs Indoor farm

In this blog we’re going to look at different cultivation techniques, growing outdoor, in a greenhouse and indoors. We’re comparing the resource inputs and the outputs.

Table of Contents

by Jille Kuipers

Why is it relevant?

A 70% increase in food production is required

The global food production has to increase by 70% in 2050 vs 2010 levels to feed the global population which is estimated to be around 9.4 to 10.2 billion by then. The challenges are numerous with an increasing demand for water, more extreme weather events, environmental pollution and poor soil quality.

From 4 to 80 KG/sqm

The good news is that despite a reduction in arable land, agricultural production has increased. This is due to more efficient farming methods. For example, a field in Spain will yield roughly four kilograms of tomatoes per square meter per growing season, In a high-tech greenhouse, it can produce eighty kilograms of tomatoes per square meter.

Indoor farming can bring more benefits

Growing hydroponically and growing indoors are good future directions. It can reduce the need for pesticides to zero, and reduce water consumption to about 2 to 4 liter per kg of vegetables. Greenhouses require about 20 liters, and in the open field, you would need 250 liters. Indoor farms also reduce land use by a factor of 10 to 20x. it can increase harvest cycles, reduce food miles and ensure all year-round production. Some disadvantages are the energy use which ideally should be from renewables.

Comparison 

Here is a comparison adapted from Avgoustaki and Xydis (2020):

 

Outdoor

Greenhouse

Indoor

Water L/kg lettuce/ year

250

20

1

Energy kWh/kg/year

0.3

60 to 180

250 

CO2 emission kg/ton of lettuce

540

352

158 

Pest control

Pesticides

Traps 

Zero pesticides

Yield kg/m2/year

3.9

41

80 to 120 

Harvests per year

2

6 to 7

8 to 12

Food miles

3200

800 to 1600

43km

Main challenge

Land clearance

HVAC, Renewables

Renewables

Each approach has different benefits and challenges. A greater share of food production in greenhouses and indoor farming can have a profound impact on local food security. Powering them with renewable energy sources will be even more attractive. 

And with services such as light-as-a-service and energy efficient grow lights, the future of indoor farming is brighter than ever. 

References

1. Global agriculture towards 2050. FAO High Level Expert Forum—How to Feed the World in 2050, Rome, Italy (2009)

2. Is the Future Tomato Red (2022), article 13848 from Agritechtomorrow

3. Avgoustaki DD, Xydis G. How energy innovation in indoor vertical farming can improve food security, sustainability, and food safety? Advances in Food Security and Sustainability. 2020;5:1–51. doi: 10.1016/bs.af2s.2020.08.002. Epub 2020 Sep 25. PMCID: PMC7516583.

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