The global industry trends and their operational situation are constantly transforming due to technological innovation and rising demand for net-zero carbon emissions. All this, and more, has pushed businesses to look for new and innovative methods to sustain their market growth and brand value.
One such industry is the agriculture industry, which is constantly innovating to move ahead with the updating technology.
Conventional agriculture methods require ideal climatic conditions, a wide range of land availability, soil fertility, and sufficient water supply, among other things. However, due to the significant surge in urbanization and the use of large land areas for commercial purposes, the issue of land unavailability for the agriculture sector rose. These issues generated the requirement for agricultural innovation in the form of automation and digitization to cater to the needs of the growing population.
Especially in urban areas, alternative farming methods such as indoor farming can address all such issues.
What is indoor farming?
Indoor farming, also known as vertical farming, is a technique for producing crops inside a closed structure in a vertical setting. Various technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), digital technologies, precision algorithms, global positioning system (GPS) trackers, and monitors and sensors are used in the vertical settings to ensure optimum production and reduced operational costs.
In this system, the cultivation of crops is monitored in controlled environments, where every parameter affecting their growth is analyzed and tailored to the crop’s needs.
According to the BIS Research market report, the global indoor farming technology market is expected to reach $12.76 billion by 2026, with a CAGR of 14.80% during the forecast period 2021-2026. The growth in the market is expected to be driven by increasing demand for food products, fresh and organic produce, and the need for an alternative growing method for sustainable agriculture.
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Essential Aspects of Indoor Farming
To successfully create an indoor (or vertical) farming setup, various technologies and components must be in sync with the main controlling system. This article further explains the functioning of controlled environment agriculture (CEA), what these technologies and components are, and how these technologies drive innovation in indoor crop production through vertical farming.
What is controlled environment agriculture (CEA)?
Controlled environment agriculture is the fundamental aspect of vertical farming. It integrates several automation technologies to create the best environmental conditions for the proper growth of the plants. Using the CEA system, vertical farming enhances the quality and quantity of the crops regardless of the outside weather conditions. In vertical farm settings, the plants are isolated from the external environment, and workers take preventive measures to stop pest infestations that could damage the crops.
Components such as smart sensors, lighting systems, climate control systems, controllers, irrigation systems, and monitoring systems are essential for CEA settings. Moreover, advanced imaging and sensor technologies, including cameras and thermal imaging to measure plant growth, temperature, and other factors, are also included in the setup.
CEA systems have proven highly effective in growing leafy greens, herbs, microgreens, and vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, melons, and sweet corn.
A few of the technological components are discussed as follows:
• Lighting Systems: In indoor farming, artificial lights are used to replace the natural lights, which serve as the source of illumination for crops. For good crop yield, the color, intensity, and duration of light all impact plants. A great deal of research is done to select the best performing light types since every stage of plant development requires a different lighting setup.
There are three types of grow lights in indoor farming: fluorescent grow lights, high-pressure sodium lights (HPS), and LED lights.
• Internet of Things (IoT): IoT already has extensive use in the agricultural sector to boost crop production, remotely monitor crops at any given time, and make farming more efficient. IoT enables vertical farming to control the growth environment under which crops are cultivated. Moreover, the employed smart sensors measure every detail, from humidity to pH levels, and transmit them to the farmers in real-time.
• Sensors: Sensors are the backbone of vertical farming as they measure the inputs such as heat, illumination, and humidity. They convert them into data and send the information to the central cloud of IoT, where either artificial intelligence (AI) systems or humans interpret it. A vast network of IoT sensors is used, including CO2 sensors, to monitor and maintain optimal CO2 levels, especially in the growing chamber that measures the light intensity and outside temperature. Other popular sensors include humidity, pH, magnetometer, and air quality sensors.
• Advanced Image Monitoring Systems: To keep a constant check on the health and growth of crops, image processing software and sensors are used. These programs monitor pest damage, measure the content of macroelements such as nitrogen, and detect developmental defects.
Data collected by sensors is transmitted in real time to a central server where artificial intelligence and machine learning can be applied to analyze the data. This enables farmers to make the most of their data, identify patterns, and troubleshoot any problems.
Global indoor farming technology has made a remarkable impact on the agriculture industry. The market is anticipated to progress greatly as it offers an ideal sustainable farming solution.
With the integration of multiple technologies, indoor farming technology has made crop production possible at any time of the year. Such innovative and sustainable solutions are a way forward to fulfilling the food demands of the consumers.