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Will "unnatural" factory farming produce better food?

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  • shaumomshaumom Member Posts: 958 Member Member Posts: 958 Member
    bpetrosky wrote: »
    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?

    Broccoli, I do not know. I don't know of any broccoli that is grown in a greenhouse, I expect because it's a cold weather crop, so it's not usually an issue, you know?

    For peppers, no personal experience, but I would wonder if any plants in the nightshade family might have similar issues to tomatoes, possibly?

    something that occurred to me later was to wonder how pollination would be handled. I see it done by hand in the smaller greenhouses, but I have not idea how large scale production would work.
  • JenSD6JenSD6 Member Posts: 454 Member Member Posts: 454 Member
    I guess I'm already doing something similar on a miniature scale with my Aerogardens. Unfortunately, I only just set up my unit with the heirloom tomatoes, so I don't know how they'll compare to the hothouse varieties from the store.
  • OrphiaOrphia Member Posts: 7,004 Member Member Posts: 7,004 Member
    bpetrosky wrote: »
    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.

    They already are. They're called "greenhouses". :smiley:

    Commercial vegetable growers use huge ones all the time.

    Some even sell their produce as "organic" and the gullible lap them up. :smiley:

    Farmer's market produce grown in backyards is much more likely to be weak and pest-ridden and is unable to feed many people.



    edited May 2018
  • bpetroskybpetrosky Member Posts: 3,901 Member Member Posts: 3,901 Member
    Orphia wrote: »
    bpetrosky wrote: »
    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.

    They already are. They're called "greenhouses". :smiley:

    Commercial vegetable growers use huge ones all the time.

    Some even sell their produce as "organic" and the gullible lap them up. :smiley:

    Farmer's market produce grown in backyards is much more likely to be weak and pest-ridden and is unable to feed many people.



    Indeed. But turn that greenhouse into a windowless facility that looks like a clean room with industrial systems and automation, and I wonder if some people will perceive the products as somehow tainted by the production process or equipment.



    Or worse,
  • OrphiaOrphia Member Posts: 7,004 Member Member Posts: 7,004 Member
    bpetrosky wrote: »
    Orphia wrote: »
    bpetrosky wrote: »
    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.

    They already are. They're called "greenhouses". :smiley:

    Commercial vegetable growers use huge ones all the time.

    Some even sell their produce as "organic" and the gullible lap them up. :smiley:

    Farmer's market produce grown in backyards is much more likely to be weak and pest-ridden and is unable to feed many people.



    Indeed. But turn that greenhouse into a windowless facility that looks like a clean room with industrial systems and automation, and I wonder if some people will perceive the products as somehow tainted by the production process or equipment.



    Or worse,

    Shh, don't tell them they're already like that. :smile:
  • amusedmonkeyamusedmonkey Member Posts: 10,198 Member Member Posts: 10,198 Member
    JenSD6 wrote: »
    I guess I'm already doing something similar on a miniature scale with my Aerogardens. Unfortunately, I only just set up my unit with the heirloom tomatoes, so I don't know how they'll compare to the hothouse varieties from the store.

    Please let us know when you harvest (hopefully successfully). I would be very interested to know how they taste in comparison.

    I was going to bring up tomatoes (and cucumbers) as an example of how things could be blander tasting, but the variety argument is convincing. I usually find myself eating more produce in season because it tastes more flavorful to me. Thankfully tomatoes are always in season here (we have an area suitable for growing tomatoes year round, always warm).

    I'm 100% for technological improvements in all areas related to food, even artificial substitutes that are a far departure from the conventional. My only concern is usually flavor because developing technologies are more concerned with making the process viable and the logistics of it than they are with the quality of flavor.
  • heybalesheybales Member Posts: 18,156 Member Member Posts: 18,156 Member
    I think they would be better, with less resources.
    Excellent Freakanomics podcast on this topic that details the why. Not your normal greenhouse concept.

    Exactly the spectrum of light and amount that is needed for optimum growth for different plants. That can be tested.
    Just the right amount of water and nutrients. Extra not needed to fight off excess heat or drought.
    No pesticides needed.
    Easier harvesting.

    All things that cut down on massive amounts of energy used for field grown crops.
    To balance out the energy needs of doing it inside.
    Also the land use is less because seasons don't matter, so no wait time or rotating crops and still having wait time.

  • AnvilHeadAnvilHead Member Posts: 18,515 Member Member Posts: 18,515 Member
    heybales wrote: »
    I think they would be better, with less resources.
    Excellent Freakanomics podcast on this topic that details the why. Not your normal greenhouse concept.

    Exactly the spectrum of light and amount that is needed for optimum growth for different plants. That can be tested.
    Just the right amount of water and nutrients. Extra not needed to fight off excess heat or drought.
    No pesticides needed.
    Easier harvesting.

    All things that cut down on massive amounts of energy used for field grown crops.
    To balance out the energy needs of doing it inside.
    Also the land use is less because seasons don't matter, so no wait time or rotating crops and still having wait time.

    Not to mention enhanced availability because there's no such thing as crops being "in season". Seasonal varieties can be available fresh year-round.
  • OrphiaOrphia Member Posts: 7,004 Member Member Posts: 7,004 Member
    I don't mean backyard little greenhouses. I mean large-scale automated hydroponic &/or intensive indoor farming is already here.

    greenhouses-almeria-2%25255B5%25255D.jpg?imgmax=800

    eg:

    http://www.amusingplanet.com/2013/08/the-greenhouses-of-almeria.html

    "Since the 1980s, the small coastal plain, some 30 kilometers southwest of the city of Almeria, has developed the largest concentration of greenhouses in the world, covering 26,000 hectares. Several tons of greenhouse vegetables and fruits such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and zucchinis are produced here annually. More than half of the Europe’s demand for fresh fruits and vegetables are grown under the plastic shades, fuelling the province of Almeria's economy by $1.5 billion in annual revenue.

    But 35 years ago, this region in the southeast of Spain was dry and arid, and desert-like, receiving an average of 200 mm of rainfall a year. In fact, Spaghetti western films were once shot here, because the land was so dry and barren.

    But with imported soil and fully hydroponic systems that drip-feed chemical fertilizers into grow-bags, over the last 35 years, the area has been intensively used for agriculture."


    maxresdefault.jpg


    edited May 2018
  • AnvilHeadAnvilHead Member Posts: 18,515 Member Member Posts: 18,515 Member
    Orphia wrote: »
    I don't mean backyard little greenhouses. I mean large-scale automated hydroponic &/or intensive indoor farming is already here.

    eg:

    http://www.amusingplanet.com/2013/08/the-greenhouses-of-almeria.html

    Amazing.

    For those of us who don't comprende "hectares", that's about 64,247 acres.
    edited May 2018
  • lokihenlokihen Member Posts: 246 Member Member Posts: 246 Member
    When I found led shop lights for sale last fall I decided to experiment for myself. I moved some earthboxes into my basement and set them up under the leds. Planted kale and lettuce because I wanted fresh greens and it's always cool down there. Both flourished and taste just fine.

    The kale is flowering now, right on schedule with the spring. That's promising because it doesn't survive our winters outside so this offers a way to get my own seeds if I spend the time pollinating them.

    My basement isn't warm enough to grow things that like the heat, but should work for peas and spinach easily.
  • jesspen91jesspen91 Member Posts: 1,383 Member Member Posts: 1,383 Member
    Orphia wrote: »
    I don't mean backyard little greenhouses. I mean large-scale automated hydroponic &/or intensive indoor farming is already here.

    greenhouses-almeria-2%25255B5%25255D.jpg?imgmax=800

    eg:

    http://www.amusingplanet.com/2013/08/the-greenhouses-of-almeria.html

    "Since the 1980s, the small coastal plain, some 30 kilometers southwest of the city of Almeria, has developed the largest concentration of greenhouses in the world, covering 26,000 hectares. Several tons of greenhouse vegetables and fruits such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and zucchinis are produced here annually. More than half of the Europe’s demand for fresh fruits and vegetables are grown under the plastic shades, fuelling the province of Almeria's economy by $1.5 billion in annual revenue.

    But 35 years ago, this region in the southeast of Spain was dry and arid, and desert-like, receiving an average of 200 mm of rainfall a year. In fact, Spaghetti western films were once shot here, because the land was so dry and barren.

    But with imported soil and fully hydroponic systems that drip-feed chemical fertilizers into grow-bags, over the last 35 years, the area has been intensively used for agriculture."


    maxresdefault.jpg


    My grandparents have a villa in Almeria so I have visited many times. These greenhouses are quite a spectacle!
  • Aaron_K123Aaron_K123 Member Posts: 7,109 Member Member Posts: 7,109 Member
    The greenhouse thing does raise a point to the original OP though. Even if you grow food in a concentrated area inside of a building (yes even if it is stacked in tiers) it is going to take up a lot of space. So much space that it isn't going to be in your city so you are still going to have to have it outside of the city and then truck or otherwise transport the food anyways.
  • youngmomtazyoungmomtaz Member Posts: 1,057 Member Member Posts: 1,057 Member
    I can’t quite imagine it. I know some of what I buy is probably grown greenhouse style and I don’t even notice. But through winter I refuse to buy cucumbers or tomatoes because they taste bad. I want garden grown ones. Avocado ripened on the tree taste better to me than the potentially underripe picked things that are shipped to my area, spaghetti squash from my garden is so sweet and not bitter at all, peppers and beans and asparagus all taste better from the garden. The blandness and lack of scent of many veg I buy makes me suspect not enough sunlight and conditions that are artificially controlled. My chicken, lamb and beef is all free range. I prefer “free range” veggies and fruit as well!
    edited May 2018
  • stanmann571stanmann571 Member Posts: 5,736 Member Member Posts: 5,736 Member
    I can’t quite imagine it. I know some of what I buy is probably grown greenhouse style and I don’t even notice. But through winter I refuse to buy cucumbers or tomatoes because they taste bad. I want garden grown ones. Avocado ripened on the tree taste better to me than the potentially underripe picked things that are shipped to my area, spaghetti squash from my garden is so sweet and not bitter at all, peppers and beans and asparagus all taste better from the garden. The blandness and lack of scent of many veg I buy makes me suspect not enough sunlight and conditions that are artificially controlled. My chicken, lamb and beef is all free range. I prefer “free range” veggies and fruit as well!

    Honestly, the blandness is less a factor of where it was grown as when it was picked.

    bpetrosky wrote: »
    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.

    I think you are right on the tomatoes. It's not the growing method that is the issue, but the varietal that is grown is less tasty, but either grows better or transports better.

    If it's truck ripened it's going to be more bland. Additionally as pointed out by someone upthread, the varietal matters as well
    edited May 2018
  • OrphiaOrphia Member Posts: 7,004 Member Member Posts: 7,004 Member
    Aaron_K123 wrote: »
    The greenhouse thing does raise a point to the original OP though. Even if you grow food in a concentrated area inside of a building (yes even if it is stacked in tiers) it is going to take up a lot of space. So much space that it isn't going to be in your city so you are still going to have to have it outside of the city and then truck or otherwise transport the food anyways.

    Vegetable farming still takes up far less space that it used to per yield.
  • SabAteNineSabAteNine Member Posts: 1,789 Member Member Posts: 1,789 Member
    „Better” can mean a lot of things. Better tasting? Not at the moment, but maybe someday. Better for the environment and society in general? It might be.

    Factory farming is not unnatural, it's optimising food production from a resource point of view. To me the fact that aquaponics farms and urban greenhouses are gaining traction is an indication that someone, somewhere, did a bit of math.

    I'd look at why they're needed from a „drivers” perspective:
    • Urbanisation - the whole „2/3 of people will live in cities by 2050” discourse (more like 80% in Europe, and that does not account for metropolitan / peri-urban living), which will greatly impact agriculture as a profession in the following decades.
    • Cutting logistics costs (shortening the chain, if you will) - „Km 0”, urban and peri-urban farming ensures produce, fish and so on get produced and delivered in virtually the same place, which cuts out much of the storage, transport and distribution headache.
    • Cutting primary resources costs: the whole reduce-reuse-recycle mantra of circular economy which saves on water and fertilizer costs. Of course, energy needs to be factored in here but I personally see no issue in using RES for it.
    • Climate change, desertification and top soil degradation, rural exile.
    • Cheap technology getting cheaper.

    So... yeah. Factory farming, provided it happens within or near urban agglomerations, is much more economically viable. Especially if is able to close nutrient cycles. From this point of view, to me it's better and I'm on board with it. Though I'm also hoping they'll be able to improve on the horribly tasteless salads of today.
  • bpetroskybpetrosky Member Posts: 3,901 Member Member Posts: 3,901 Member
    SabAteNine wrote: »
    „Better” can mean a lot of things. Better tasting? Not at the moment, but maybe someday. Better for the environment and society in general? It might be.

    Factory farming is not unnatural, it's optimising food production from a resource point of view. To me the fact that aquaponics farms and urban greenhouses are gaining traction is an indication that someone, somewhere, did a bit of math.

    I'd look at why they're needed from a „drivers” perspective:
    • Urbanisation - the whole „2/3 of people will live in cities by 2050” discourse (more like 80% in Europe, and that does not account for metropolitan / peri-urban living), which will greatly impact agriculture as a profession in the following decades.
    • Cutting logistics costs (shortening the chain, if you will) - „Km 0”, urban and peri-urban farming ensures produce, fish and so on get produced and delivered in virtually the same place, which cuts out much of the storage, transport and distribution headache.
    • Cutting primary resources costs: the whole reduce-reuse-recycle mantra of circular economy which saves on water and fertilizer costs. Of course, energy needs to be factored in here but I personally see no issue in using RES for it.
    • Climate change, desertification and top soil degradation, rural exile.
    • Cheap technology getting cheaper.

    So... yeah. Factory farming, provided it happens within or near urban agglomerations, is much more economically viable. Especially if is able to close nutrient cycles. From this point of view, to me it's better and I'm on board with it. Though I'm also hoping they'll be able to improve on the horribly tasteless salads of today.

    That's an excellent perspective. I think these facilities, if they emerge, will be best suited for fast-growing crops that are resource intensive when field-grown. Leafy vegetables, herbs, legumes, peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, garlic etc. I don't think we appreciate how much of present system of agriculture has centralized these crops to a few regions or made us dependent on foreign imports, even if they're greenhouse grown.

    Long distance transport favors tougher varieties and picking early to maximize the yield that survives the trip the store. A facility serving a metropolitan area within a day's transport doesn't have to make the same tradeoffs for distribution and can pick varieties that wouldn't survive our current storage and distribution networks.

    Another side-benefit I can imagine is that shifting and decentralizing these crops could free up land for crops that aren't as well suited for indoor growing such as orchard based fruits (citrus, avocados, apples), cereal crops, larger plants, etc.

  • bpetroskybpetrosky Member Posts: 3,901 Member Member Posts: 3,901 Member
    Orphia wrote: »
    I don't mean backyard little greenhouses. I mean large-scale automated hydroponic &/or intensive indoor farming is already here.

    greenhouses-almeria-2%25255B5%25255D.jpg?imgmax=800

    eg:

    http://www.amusingplanet.com/2013/08/the-greenhouses-of-almeria.html

    "Since the 1980s, the small coastal plain, some 30 kilometers southwest of the city of Almeria, has developed the largest concentration of greenhouses in the world, covering 26,000 hectares. Several tons of greenhouse vegetables and fruits such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and zucchinis are produced here annually. More than half of the Europe’s demand for fresh fruits and vegetables are grown under the plastic shades, fuelling the province of Almeria's economy by $1.5 billion in annual revenue.

    But 35 years ago, this region in the southeast of Spain was dry and arid, and desert-like, receiving an average of 200 mm of rainfall a year. In fact, Spaghetti western films were once shot here, because the land was so dry and barren.

    But with imported soil and fully hydroponic systems that drip-feed chemical fertilizers into grow-bags, over the last 35 years, the area has been intensively used for agriculture."


    maxresdefault.jpg


    This is awesome in it's scale! An arid region of Spain producing over half of Europe's vegetables and that's just since the 80's. I'd love to know how good the produce is compared to what we get in the US. It's extremely centralized, but with Europe's shorter transportation networks it might still be quite a bit better.
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