New innovations, approaches, and techniques for farming are constantly evolving to create more resilient and sustainable food systems. Some of the most promising of these innovations are being used to create new indoor farming techniques, as a way to feed high quality and contaminant-free food to the ever-growing population.
In this article, we’ll cover the biggest innovations in indoor farming in 2021, which are helping to maximize production and improve food security in a sustainable way.
New Business Models and Modular Approaches
New business models are being developed to help farmers improve their growing practices indoors, such as modular growing systems. These growing systems have gained significant popularity in 2021, as they provide tailor-made facilities and functionality, improve the visual appeal of an indoor farm, and are a new way to grow fresh produce indoors.
With a modular approach, commercial spaces, supermarkets, offices, restaurants, and residential can all be used as spaces to build small-scale farms, which can be managed through digital solutions and automation. Studies have shown that the experience of indoor growers using these innovations is a challenging task but is greatly rewarding in terms of freshness, quality, and production potential.
Light Emitting Diode (LED) Systems
Artificial grow lights for indoor growing have been used for many years, but the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of lighting systems were a major concern until recently. LED technology helps to support the growth of indoor plants with fewer resources than previous methods.
Studies have shown that the use of LED lights can significantly enhance photosynthetic activity in plants, increase yield, and improves biomass. LED lighting systems are specialized to provide blue, red, and pink lights, giving plants a full spectrum of light.
In 2021, researchers have developed new types of LED lights that are more effective than previous iterations. Indoor growers can tailor their lighting according to the requirements of plants and growing stages.
Artificial Intelligence and Indoor Farming
New innovations in digital agriculture, artificial intelligence, and other technologies have completely changed the landscape of farming and food production. Satellite data and remote sensors are providing new insights on the impact of climate conditions and monitoring the soil health of specific regions. These technologies are being used to check the feasibility of indoor farming and controlled environment agriculture before any farming begins. The amount of data collected by these sensors is significant and allows growers to gather all the information they need before beginning their farm.
Artificial intelligence and data science technologies have been used for farming for many years, but new research in this field has made these technologies effective. Artificial intelligence is now being used to control humidity, temperature, aeration, light, nutrients, water, and CO2 levels according to the requirements of specific plants.
The integration of artificial intelligence combined with indoor growing has produced higher yield, less water consumption, faster maturation, and smaller footprints. Harvesting times can also be optimized, and many plants can be protected from spoilage due to delayed harvesting.
Precision agriculture is a farming management technique that uses many of these new technologies to reduce costs and increase the productivity of indoor farms. Some leading precision agriculture technologies include variable-rate technology (VRT), guidance systems, soil GIS maps, yield maps, and yield monitors. Precision agriculture technologies help give farmers more precision when applying synthetic fertilizers, planting seeds, and creating equipment designs for indoor growing.
Improved Water Treatment in Indoor Farms
Many indoor growers are well aware of the challenges of water recycling wastewater treatment from indoor grow rooms or controlled environment agriculture systems. Treating wastewater at an external site is more expensive, time-consuming, and management intensive. Treatment of wastewater inside the growing area, or nearby, is the most cost-effective and simplest approach.
Recent improvements to wastewater recycling technology have allowed indoor growers to obtain high-quality and contaminant-free water within their own facilities. These wastewater recycling systems include aerobic tanks, flow equalisation, pretreatment anaerobic components, small constructed wetlands, and ecological-based fluidized beds.
Rainwater harvesting in the local area can also provide water storage options for hydroponics and soil-based indoor growing operations. Traditional housed structures, tank-based systems, and aquatic cells with exterior constructed wetlands are also being used in greenhouses.
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Innovations in Wind-Powered Indoor Farming
Wind-powered vertical farms are supported by integrating various farming techniques, including soil-based cultivation and hydroponic systems. Wind-powered farming structures have multiple stories and are supported by rigid circular frames. This design maximizes the amount of sunlight plants get. Structures of this design can support both fish and crops through the use of recirculating nutrient solution systems.
Cubic Indoor Farming Systems
Cubic indoor farming systems are being considered for the next generation of profitable, predictable, and consistent growing systems. These systems work based on LED lighting systems, automated delivery of nutrients, and automatic conveyor rotation of crops. These systems use 1/26th of the water when compared to traditional farming methods, providing significant improvements in sustainability and economic viability.
Plantscaping is a new way to help produce food in unused space in buildings and office spaces. This is one of the most effective innovations in 2021 due to the ease of management and use of fully automated systems. Growing structures are integrated into living spaces and offices with hydroponic systems which are self-contained and nearly self-sustaining. Some have estimated that systems like this can provide for more than 5000 people, and the levels of food production can be increased even more with improvements in automation.
That’s our list of the most important innovations in indoor farming in 2021! Which was your favorite?
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