Using Indoor Farming To Protect Food Supplies During Natural Disaster Recovery

Brian Freed, President and CEO Pangea Global Technology.

Communities across the United States need to protect their food supplies from natural disasters. Florida alone Tampa Bay Times reports that crop damage from Hurricane Ian could reach $1.9 billion. But the impact of natural disasters on agriculture goes beyond Florida’s hurricanes.

A less severe natural disaster, the California drought brought associated costs of $1.3 billion in 2021 and $1.7 billion in 2022. los angeles timesmore than 12,000 people lost their jobs during this period and more than 750,000 acres of farmland fellow, including important crops such as strawberries, melons, lettuce and tomatoes.

Hail storms in the upper Midwest, fires in the West, and tornadoes in the South will all result in even greater losses in 2022, with some areas, such as Yellowstone, experiencing a 500-year event. did.

Another important move by the agricultural industry to cope with natural disasters is to shift more production to indoor vertical farming operations. These facilities can prevent disasters to feed the growing population against disasters caused by climate change. Below are best practices in setting up and utilizing the technological advances and methods available for indoor farming.

Strong merit against various disasters

Vertical indoor farming operations are “disaster resistant” because they operate in a controlled environment protected from the elements. Operators can build indoor farming structures in a variety of environments, even in reclaimed urban areas. In fact, when choosing a location, indoor farms built closer to city centers reduce the need to store produce, reduce transportation costs, and reduce spoilage.Reuse existing buildings or start from scratch. It can be built to place operations in zones with a variety of difficult environmental conditions.

Indoor farming also produces less pollution and less greenhouse gas emissions than comparable traditional farming practices. This reduces the sector’s contribution to climate change, a key factor in the intensity, frequency and duration of many natural disasters that disrupt agriculture.

Indoor farming uses less water than traditional farming practices and greatly reduces the need for herbicides, fungicides and pesticides. It means you can operate indoor farms even in chaotic scenarios.

Make it a cost-effective option

While the options are vast, the vertical farming industry is currently focused on high-value produce such as strawberries and blueberries. Because the production of these crops is easily automated and contributes to profit margins. Lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, and other types of salads are among the best crops that can be grown in vertical farms because they grow fast, are reliable, and are in high demand.

In addition, mint, basil, oregano, parsley, thyme and rosemary are routinely grown for retail sale. And despite some hurdles in terms of cost, farms such as Living Greens, Vertical Roots and other operators have higher labor requirements because many people use these vegetables every day. Despite this, we grow leafy vegetables.

Other crops being considered for edible oil shortages include soybeans and canola (oilseed rape). Crops that typically mature at 6 feet or less in height are best grown indoors due to the yield per square foot and the number of crop cycles possible per year.

As the industry is still in its infancy, I foresee changes in the types of food groups produced in vertical environments. It can be expected that the growing need due to the disruption caused by food production will continue to drive this alternative to food production.

Efficiency through technology and automation

The main drivers for developing ‘smart’ indoor farms are achieving higher yields with less water and fertilizer consumption, and creating unattended processes that are as automated as possible.

A typical automated or IoT-based indoor farm uses a six-layer framework. This includes physical layer (hardware facilities), network layer (Internet and communication), middleware layer (IoT gateway), service layer (cloud products), analytics layer (big data, predictive analytics, etc.), user experience layer (yield) is included. and farmer experience). At each layer, different smart technology solutions can be applied to reduce labor costs, increase output and save production time. Choosing the right smart technologies for agriculture can optimize resource use and improve the commercial viability of agricultural products. Finding ways to use fewer resources also reduces operating costs.

Water and lighting systems are included in the physical layer and are two of the first considerations. The leading option features software-assisted automated monitoring and analysis, but requires a large front-end investment. However, installing lighting technology allows you to measure soil moisture, temperature, humidity and other variables and coordinate with relevant systems and staff to make changes. The information generated by smart lighting sensors allows operators to perform advanced analytics, allowing them to measure production by various parameters and review quarterly and yearly outputs.

Importantly, lighting, watering, and other conditions are combined so that growers can build a “recipe” for success, store that information, and repeat successful crop cycles based on past performance. We believe that our goal is to continue to develop and utilize advanced smart software systems that enable us to do our best. Automation can also be used to plant seeds, harvest and reload pallets, thus reducing operating costs and human error. increase.

All these advances are driving down costs and making indoor farming a viable alternative to traditional farming. , can ensure consistent production in food-insecure and disaster-prone areas.

Such projects not only help regions recover from natural disasters by ensuring stability and access to food, but also slowly reduce the negative feedback loop of the environmental impact of agriculture.

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