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Will "unnatural" factory farming produce better food?

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  • SabAteNineSabAteNine Member Posts: 1,789 Member Member Posts: 1,789 Member
    bpetrosky wrote: »
    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.

    Correct, produce would be best suited to be grown in cities or at the fringe of urban agglomerations, and if we talk about aquaponics, fish as well. Advantages of short chains apart, this offers the best possibility to correlate and optimize supply and demand: you know your output, you have near-instant feedback on the demand because it's local and you're going to collect statistics anyway through your selling points, you can adjust accordingly. Whereas in a global supply and demand chain, this cannot be achieved and often leads to overproduction, food waste or fluctuations in market price.

    While produce is not the only food type which could be grown this way (see the Paris project URBANANA for a more exotic example), I agree that fruits and most importantly grains, even wine are a different story, with a totally different set of problems all-together due to the extensive plots they need to be cultivated on (climate; soil; irrigation; management).

    In practice, I don't think that there is an immediate correlation between moving a part of the bio-based economy in cities and reusing rural land. At least in the first phase (20-30 years), factory farming would just be an added layer. I don't know how it is in the States, but where I'm from, the biggest causes for us importing more than exporting in spite of great-quality soil and an immense potential for grain agriculture are land fragmentation and the adversity for cooperation (as a reaction to pre-1989 cooperativization). Most land is private. It simply lacks the size it would need for efficient crop planting, and it would remain private even with all the urban farms in the world. On top of it, grains need to be rotated, too - you need the proverbial critical mass to be able to do so while keeping a steady output and not depleting the soil.

    Not „unnatural” in any way, but a clever use of land resources for urban poverty mitigation which ties back to the discussion about advantages of urban agriculture - http://www.uia-initiative.eu/en/uia-cities/pozzuoli
  • Aaron_K123Aaron_K123 Member Posts: 7,109 Member Member Posts: 7,109 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.


    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.

    igcc8krmcu3u.jpg

    I'm not sure why I didn't really pay much attention to the photo here but there is some weird stuff going on in there that doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Perhaps it is because it is one of those intentionally artsy shots that doesn't reflect day to day opperation but...

    Why are half the LEDs purple? What plant prefers purple light?

    Why is the guy in a Tyvek suit with gloves and a respiratory mask? No need for pesticides if you are indoors.

    Why are the plants stacked higher than you could reasonably reach? I get it has more area that way but the celling is much higher than standard, seems like you could just have a second floor with another setup and have the stack be half-sized on each floor. Or if not another floor have some sort of catwalk or something...this setup looks like it would require a lot of lifts for no good reason.
  • heybalesheybales Member Posts: 18,166 Member Member Posts: 18,166 Member
    https://www.citylab.com/environment/2018/02/the-promise-of-indoor-hurricane-proof-vertical-farms/553127/

    Purple and green is what we can see - from what I recall - the differences in wavelength that have a better effect on growth aren't always in visible spectrum.

    They probably only need to spot check some plants within reach, and assume any changes in food would be applied to all whether reachable or not. If exact same plant and exact same food, and a change would be beneficial, should apply to all.
    You got me picturing though a more science guy driving a lift and accidentally starting a domino effect of knocking over racks.

    The clean suit does have me trying to recall something though.
    The idea that some desired flavoring in plants is due to their release of chemicals for fighting off whatever might be trying to eat them.
    I'm sure the idea is remove all stress so the plant can put all effort into growing.
    But I wonder, if like a butterfly needs to fight against the cocoon to get liquid into wings for flight - is some stress on the plants beneficial, short or long term.
    And something will eventually be missed by having a stress free environment.
    edited May 2018
  • Aaron_K123Aaron_K123 Member Posts: 7,109 Member Member Posts: 7,109 Member
    heybales wrote: »
    https://www.citylab.com/environment/2018/02/the-promise-of-indoor-hurricane-proof-vertical-farms/553127/

    Purple and green is what we can see - from what I recall - the differences in wavelength that have a better effect on growth aren't always in visible spectrum.

    They probably only need to spot check some plants within reach, and assume any changes in food would be applied to all whether reachable or not. If exact same plant and exact same food, and a change would be beneficial, should apply to all.
    You got me picturing though a more science guy driving a lift and accidentally starting a domino effect of knocking over racks.

    The clean suit does have me trying to recall something though.
    The idea that some desired flavoring in plants is due to their release of chemicals for fighting off whatever might be trying to eat them.
    I'm sure the idea is remove all stress so the plant can put all effort into growing.
    But I wonder, if like a butterfly needs to fight against the cocoon to get liquid into wings for flight - is some stress on the plants beneficial, short or long term.
    And something will eventually be missed by having a stress free environment.

    They can always just hire a guy to walk around punching the cauliflower in the face.
  • VUA21VUA21 Member Posts: 2,073 Member Member Posts: 2,073 Member
    New term: indoor farming
    Old term: green house

    If it's better for the environment, I don't see any issues whatsoever.
  • tklivorytklivory Member Posts: 46 Member Member Posts: 46 Member
    Aaron_K123 wrote: »
    They can always just hire a guy to walk around punching the cauliflower in the face.

    What did that cauliflower ever do to you??
  • AnvilHeadAnvilHead Member Posts: 18,515 Member Member Posts: 18,515 Member
    bpetrosky wrote: »
    tklivory wrote: »
    Aaron_K123 wrote: »
    They can always just hire a guy to walk around punching the cauliflower in the face.

    What did that cauliflower ever do to you??

    Cauliflower tried to pass itself off as an acceptable substitute for pizza crust. It knows what it did and deserves what's coming to it.

    It's times like this when I really, really miss the "Awesome" tag. :D
  • ButterchopButterchop Member Posts: 203 Member Member Posts: 203 Member
    I just wanted to add. I grow lettuce,micro tomatoes, and some herbs under lights in my closet year round. Indoor pests are a thing , especially mites even just in house plants. I think this is basically like a hipster green house. Fertilizers and pesticides will still have to be used. I have no problem with that. Also flavor will be different even in lettuce. Different enough for the masses to notice? I doubt it but I notice the difference even in my lettuce.
  • ButterchopButterchop Member Posts: 203 Member Member Posts: 203 Member
    One more thing. I use less fertilizer and pesticides on my outdoor garden than indoor because my soil has been loved and taken care of so only amendments in the off season are needed. I use the get beneficial insects to the garden practice for pests.
  • bpetroskybpetrosky Member Posts: 3,904 Member Member Posts: 3,904 Member
    Butterchop wrote: »
    I just wanted to add. I grow lettuce,micro tomatoes, and some herbs under lights in my closet year round. Indoor pests are a thing , especially mites even just in house plants. I think this is basically like a hipster green house. Fertilizers and pesticides will still have to be used. I have no problem with that. Also flavor will be different even in lettuce. Different enough for the masses to notice? I doubt it but I notice the difference even in my lettuce.
    Butterchop wrote: »
    One more thing. I use less fertilizer and pesticides on my outdoor garden than indoor because my soil has been loved and taken care of so only amendments in the off season are needed. I use the get beneficial insects to the garden practice for pests.

    The original point was to compare this type of operation to traditionally field grown produce, rather than a household garden (whether in your closet or outside). This is really more analogous to the huge greenhouse operations in Spain that were mentioned upthread, only made more vertical and possibly not even using natural light.

    A large scale operation like I pictured in the beginning of the thread would be much different than your closet. This would be more like the production spaces used for packaged foods with entrance barriers (air barriers, plastic curtains, etc), workers changing into special work clothes before entering the production room. The few pests that do get into the production room would probably not need broadcast pesticides applied to the food.

    As far as fertilizer is concerned, the big benefit would be not having to use broadcast application on a large field. Nutrients can be added to the irrigation drips, and a large operation would use the organic waste from their operation and other local sources to mulch into their soil for use in preparing new plants for the grow rooms.

    Ultimately, though, these could end up being highly automated operations. I wonder mostly if this would be irrationally labelled "junk" or "processed" because of suspicion of the "unnatural" environment. The mentality would be more of an extension of the people who insist on organic produce in the belief that conventional produce is full of toxins or of inferior nutritional quality.


  • ButterchopButterchop Member Posts: 203 Member Member Posts: 203 Member
    bpetrosky wrote: »
    Butterchop wrote: »
    I just wanted to add. I grow lettuce,micro tomatoes, and some herbs under lights in my closet year round. Indoor pests are a thing , especially mites even just in house plants. I think this is basically like a hipster green house. Fertilizers and pesticides will still have to be used. I have no problem with that. Also flavor will be different even in lettuce. Different enough for the masses to notice? I doubt it but I notice the difference even in my lettuce.
    Butterchop wrote: »
    One more thing. I use less fertilizer and pesticides on my outdoor garden than indoor because my soil has been loved and taken care of so only amendments in the off season are needed. I use the get beneficial insects to the garden practice for pests.

    The original point was to compare this type of operation to traditionally field grown produce, rather than a household garden (whether in your closet or outside). This is really more analogous to the huge greenhouse operations in Spain that were mentioned upthread, only made more vertical and possibly not even using natural light.

    A large scale operation like I pictured in the beginning of the thread would be much different than your closet. This would be more like the production spaces used for packaged foods with entrance barriers (air barriers, plastic curtains, etc), workers changing into special work clothes before entering the production room. The few pests that do get into the production room would probably not need broadcast pesticides applied to the food.

    As far as fertilizer is concerned, the big benefit would be not having to use broadcast application on a large field. Nutrients can be added to the irrigation drips, and a large operation would use the organic waste from their operation and other local sources to mulch into their soil for use in preparing new plants for the grow rooms.

    Ultimately, though, these could end up being highly automated operations. I wonder mostly if this would be irrationally labelled "junk" or "processed" because of suspicion of the "unnatural" environment. The mentality would be more of an extension of the people who insist on organic produce in the belief that conventional produce is full of toxins or of inferior nutritional quality.


    Yes I understood the point. I just noticed several people commenting NO PESTICIDES and wanted to point out that was very unlikely.
  • mangrothianmangrothian Member Posts: 1,351 Member Member Posts: 1,351 Member
    Aaron_K123 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.


    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.

    igcc8krmcu3u.jpg

    I'm not sure why I didn't really pay much attention to the photo here but there is some weird stuff going on in there that doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Perhaps it is because it is one of those intentionally artsy shots that doesn't reflect day to day opperation but...

    Why are half the LEDs purple? What plant prefers purple light?

    Why is the guy in a Tyvek suit with gloves and a respiratory mask? No need for pesticides if you are indoors.

    Why are the plants stacked higher than you could reasonably reach? I get it has more area that way but the celling is much higher than standard, seems like you could just have a second floor with another setup and have the stack be half-sized on each floor. Or if not another floor have some sort of catwalk or something...this setup looks like it would require a lot of lifts for no good reason.

    I can at least answer the part on the cleansuit getup; it's to stop additional fungal/bacterial/insect contamination getting into the crop from footwear, clothing, fingers, etc. I bet there are anti-fungal sticky mats at every doorway and an intense pest control system that you can't see in the picture because it'd look 'less sciency and futuristic' :D . I've seen plant biotech labs working with GM crops that aren't as stringent as this...

    I'm betting that the picture is actually from a control crop being used for research purposes to research things such as efficiency in cleaning the seeds before planting (because they'll need to be sterilised to prevent bacterial growth in the water supply), growth rates with different lighting conditions, optimal nutrient compositions, optimal O2/CO2 concentrations., etc (or the myriad other things they'll need to optimise yield). There's no other reason to keep such a clean environment as it just wouldn't be practical on the grand scale you'd need for this to be a practical farming solution.
  • JusomsoJusomso Member Posts: 4 Member Member Posts: 4 Member
    Farming is only one part of this hell :) Livestock raising is much more complicated and costly. I spent over $ 5,000 to start my own farm, and at first it was a huge profit for me, but over time, animal yields began to decline and I started to panic. I thought for a long time and consulted with the professionals in this field and they advised me to take a number of measures in order to increase the productivity of animals. In particular, I found a lot of information in the article about farms and the correct raising of animals. There I learned about layer birds management and it gave a new impetus to the development of my farm!
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