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Will "unnatural" factory farming produce better food?

bpetroskybpetrosky Member Posts: 3,901 Member Member Posts: 3,901 Member

Indoor farms, once a concept from science fiction, are becoming a reality. With new advances in LED lighting and renewable engergy sources, vegetable crops can be grown in a warehouse like building. Crops would be protected from weather, insects and animal, and most diseases. The site could use less water, less pesticides, and could produce crops the whole year. Such sites could be built within urban centers reducing the need to transport vegetables long distances. Less hardy or heirloom type vegetables could be easier and cheaper to produce as well.

My question is would you consider food grown this way somehow inferior to field grown produce? Would the artficial growing environment make it appear less nutritious to you? Would you think of it as tainted by the factory style production environment? What would make it worse than produce grown in the fields?

Personally, I think the crops would be as good as or superior to conventionally grown crops in most cases. The produce would be more fresh, produced with less pesticides and fertilizers, and be a better value than what we currently consider organically grown. More tasty varietals of different crops could be produced as well. Generally, I think it's very promising.



  • Crafty_camper123Crafty_camper123 Member Posts: 1,440 Member Member Posts: 1,440 Member
    It would produce higher quality more readily available fruits and veggies. Few pesticides & fungicides would be needed for sure. Lesser chance of contamination from listeria or e-coli. You can't grow everything this way, but you could many things like greens, root veggies, and berries. I don't see how conventionally grown would be any better. I would love to have a hydroponic setup someday and have things like lettuce & spinach available year round.
  • Stockholm_AndyStockholm_Andy Member Posts: 640 Member Member Posts: 640 Member
    I think nutritionally they will be very similar taste wise I think they'll taste slightly blander.

    Most of the salad I can buy here in Sweden is grown in Hydroponic greenhouse factories. The tomatoes and cucumbers are mostly from high intensty polytunnles.

    Last week I was on Cyprus and bought salad from a local farm shop. The taste of the misshapen, slightly odd looking veggies in my Greek salad was much better then what I can get from a supermarket at home.

    However, it's probably a mute point as we'll likely need to move to these methods of production to meet demand. So it wouldn't put me off eating them.

    Also as you say the lower levels of pesticides and artificial fertilisers released into the environment would likely be a good thing.
  • kshama2001kshama2001 Member Posts: 22,706 Member Member Posts: 22,706 Member
    I'm not opposed to it in principle. I'd need to know more about actual (as opposed to theoretical) execution.

    Greenhouses bring their own challenges. For example:
    1. Some plants will be leggy/spindly without wind, so artificial wind needs to be added. (Not dissing fans, just saying this is a consideration.)
    2. There are some pests that thrive indoors for certain plants, so measures need to be taken for that.

    Why would you need less fertilizer? Because it has less wild to dilute into?
    edited May 2018
  • bmeadows380bmeadows380 Member Posts: 2,927 Member Member Posts: 2,927 Member
    I can see this being a godsend for dense population centers such as Hong Kong or Taiwan as well.
  • jesspen91jesspen91 Member Posts: 1,383 Member Member Posts: 1,383 Member
    I'm all for it, lab grown meat as well while we're at it. Let's embrace scientific advances!
  • bpetroskybpetrosky Member Posts: 3,901 Member Member Posts: 3,901 Member
    Aaron_K123 wrote: »
    I think it is sort of going the wrong direction in terms of our energy future. You can think of a typical outdoor farm sort of like a solar plant that harvests energy from the sun for our use. This does the drains our power resources and provides less energy and than was input. I think when you contemplate that some of those LEDs would be literally powered by energy from solar farms that inefficiency becomes more apparent.

    In a future where all power needs are solved sure....but today, not sure I see the point. In countries that can build LED farm warehouses food isn't that much of an issue...but power is.

    That's a fair concern, especially since the conversion efficiency of photovoltaic panels is below 25% if I recall correctly. When you factor in the full chain of solar to electric transimission, possibly battery storage, and conversion to light, the total efficiency would be pretty low.

    I think the power use of such a facility could be mitigated by several other factors, however. Onsite cogeneration from roof mounted solar and wind and maybe using waste products from the plants. Also we may find we don't need full spectrum inensity lighting for many plants. Selective spectrum lighting at lower intensities may be more than enough for healthy plants.

    Timing the light cycles during off-peak generation time is another strategy that comes to mind. We already do something similar to this with pumped storage generation stations that pump water into a reservoir overnight and reverse it during the day during peak time. It makes no sense from an energy efficiency standpoint, but works out economically.

    edited May 2018
  • TacklewasherTacklewasher Member Posts: 7,131 Member Member Posts: 7,131 Member
    Aaron_K123 wrote: »
    In a future where all power needs are solved sure....but today, not sure I see the point. In countries that can build LED farm warehouses food isn't that much of an issue...but power is.

    Couple of advantages to weigh against that.

    These would take up less land in regions where land is expensive and hard to come by. Water usage would be less (less evaporation) in dryer climates and the ability to grow year round in colder climates.

    An interesting idea.
  • shaumomshaumom Member Posts: 958 Member Member Posts: 958 Member
    I have a lot of thoughts about this, I suppose, but many of them aren't quite answering the original question, so I'll do that first.

    1. Do I think that food grown indoors is inferior to food grown outdoors? Not necessarily. Grown by aquaponics? That, I think the taste is poorer. There are some folks around here who grow tomatoes with aquaponics during the winter, but just normally in the summer, and there is a noticeable taste difference. The aquaponics tomatoes are simply blander.

    I also think that there would be a big learning curve for many plants. There's simply a lot we don't know about a lot of plants at this stage. Like, which plants bolt due to heat, vs. which bolt due to the length of time the sun is up - we know that for some plants, but it hasn't been research in some others. Or another example, we are just now learning just how important the fungus under the ground is for healthier crops, and how often we screw it up when we dig up fields every year to plant (rather like we're learning about how important gut bacteria are in people, and how often we have screwed it up when antibiotics were handed out a bit too often in the past).

    I'm not saying that this is an insurmountable problem, just that it's definitely something to be researched, and there is definitely the possibility of inferior crops due to screws in this area, in the early years.

    I also think the likelihood is going to be for more chemical usage, not just doesn't seem likely that someone is going to be going with older, and slower, techniques to building rich soil or growing mediums, when they are also going with much more modern ways of growing food indoors.

    When it comes to the concept of growing food indoors in general (not just the quality of food), I have to say one thing that comes to mind is that I wish a lot of us thought in aesthetics as well as practicalities, because both are possible

    Because while I absolutely agree that having food sources more near the people they are going to sounds great...why make it ugly? Because there are ways to make growing plants/food amazing and beautiful, like they are trying to do in Singapore (although theirs is with plants more than crops, but crops could be similar).


    These metal 'trees' in the picture are harvesting both light AND water for growing plants, and have plants growing in them, and up them, as well. And it's lovely and awesome, rather than a big square block of 'blech' that is an eyesore in the middle of a city.

    Imagine using something like this to grow crops?
    edited May 2018
  • urloved33urloved33 Member Posts: 3,361 Member Member Posts: 3,361 Member
    with no sunlight really no sunlight?
  • urloved33urloved33 Member Posts: 3,361 Member Member Posts: 3,361 Member
    see the thing that people don't realize that farming - and all the pieces on the farm= cattle crops chickens etc - if worked correctly all work together to get the very best products - but farms don't use the correct system - ive seen it done on a documentary and was like ooooooooooooooo is that what is supposed to happen? its very very interesting.
  • bpetroskybpetrosky Member Posts: 3,901 Member Member Posts: 3,901 Member
    So the common observation most people have had is regarding the flavor of 'greenhouse' tomatoes. I can see that complaint. Does that also happen with other vegetables like peppers or broccoli?

    With tomatoes, I think the 'hothouse' varieties are a varietal selected for being easy to slice and transports well. With more local production where we don't have to transport a tomato hundreds of miles, I think we could grow more flavorful varietals instead.
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