Exploring The Complicated Reality Of America’s Indoor Farmers

New farms are appearing even as many existing ones go out of business. Exploring The Complicated Reality Of America’s Indoor Farmers Shutterstock

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As climate change threatens much of the nation’s farmland, there’s some hope that massive greenhouses can provide some of the crops that would otherwise be grown outside.

But even as new indoor farming operations spring up across the country, there are some serious concerns about the long-term viability of this relatively new method.

Trial and error

If you were to ask some industry insiders whether indoor farming is the wave of the future, you’d get a resounding “yes.” After all, there’s a lot of money being injected into projects like Plenty Unlimited — an enormous facility being constructed in California.

Then there’s Kroger, the supermarket chain that recently announced significant investments in its own supply of produce grown in so-called “vertical” farms.

But on the other hand, you’ve got AeroFarms in New Jersey and AppHarvest in Kentucky, both of which filed for bankruptcy recently. Planted Detroit planned to build another farm in its operation but abruptly ceased operations entirely over the summer.

The lesson seems to be that it’s imperative to build on a model that is sustainable economically as well as environmentally.

Accentuate the positive

Advocates of indoor farming are quick to point out all of the potential pros associated with the process, including:

  • Using less water and land
  • Cutting down on transportation
  • Reducing the need for pesticides
  • Allowing for year-round harvests

Any company that is able to capitalize on these selling points is likely to survive the current period of uncertainty, according to Eden Green grower Jacob Portillo, who said: “The fact that other people are failing and other people are succeeding, that’s going to happen in any industry you go to, but specifically for us, I think that especially as sustainable as we’re trying to be, the sustainable competitors I think are going to start winning.”

Chris Agee
Chris Agee September 22nd, 2023
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