There is no soil. There is no growth period. Just add water and technology.

Helena V Berbie

Morehead, Kentucky — In this beautiful town on the edge of the coal country, a high-tech greenhouse large enough to cover 50 soccer fields glows pink and yellow with 30,600 LEDs and high-pressure sodium lamps.

Inside, nearly £ 3 million of beef steak tomatoes grow on 45-foot-high vines without a teaspoon of soil, and their roots are submerged in nutrient-rich rainwater.Other vines hold thousands of small, juicy snack tomatoes with enough pepper to impress Martha Stewart on the board. AppHarvestA start-up company that harvests its first crop here in January and plans to open 11 more indoor farms in Appalachia by 2025.

In a much more industrial environment near the Hackensack River in Kearny, NJ, trays filled with sweet baby butterhead lettuce and sorrel flavored with lemon and green apple are piled up in a windowless warehouse. This is known as vertical farming. Bowery, The largest vertical farming company in the United States, manipulates light, humidity, temperature and other conditions to grow produce and is funded by investors such as: Justin Timberlake, Natalie Portman, chefs Jose Andre and Tom Colicchio.

“If you taste arugula, it’s sold,” said Koricchio, who has turned to people who claim to grow delicious hydroponic produce for years. “It was very spicy and lively and surprised me.”

The two operations use technological advances such as machine learning algorithms, data analysis, and proprietary software systems to create accurate growing conditions and bring out customized flavors and textures from fruits and vegetables in a new generation of hydroponics. It is part of a cultivation farm. And they can do it almost anywhere.

These farms arrive at crucial moments. The country’s strips have withered due to the heat and drought of climate change, partly supported by certain forms of agriculture. Demand for locally sourced foods is higher than ever, and pandemics have shown that many people are not as resilient as their food supply chains may have been.

However, not everyone is participating. These huge farms grow their produce in nutrient-rich water, rather than in healthy soil, which many believe is central to both deliciousness and nutrition.They can be consumed A huge amount of electricity. Their most ardent opponents say that the claims made to hydroponics are misleading and even dangerous.

“At this point, I think the bad guys are winning,” said a Vermont farmer. Real organic project.. “Hydroponics isn’t growing because it produces healthier foods. It’s growing thanks to money. Anyone who sees this as food for people or the environment is lying. I’m just there. “

The jargon of hydroponics is controlled environmental farming, but business people call it indoor farming. What used to be simply called a farm is now called an onshore farm or field farming.

“We have perfected Mother Nature indoors by combining science and technology with agriculture,” said Daniel Malechuk, CEO of. Carrera, A company that sells whole lettuce in plastic clamshells, leaving the roots intact, at about the same price as other washed lettuce.

In March, the company opened a 77,000-square-foot facility south of Atlanta, capable of producing more than 10 million lettuce annually. Similar indoor farms in Houston, Denver, Seattle, Honolulu St. Paul, Minnesota.

According to Malechuk and other executives, the beauty of this process is not limited by the seasons. You can accurately predict the cost and growth period of your crops and build farms wherever people need fresh produce.

“We can grow in Antarctica,” he said. “We can be on the island. We can be on the moon or on the space station.”

It’s easy to imagine. There are new breeds of young farmers on the farm who wear lab coats instead of overalls and prefer computers to tractors.

Today, more than 2,300 farms growing hydroponic crops in the United States make up just part of the country’s $ 5.2 billion fruit and vegetable market. But investors who are crazy about smart farming are betting big on them.

In 2020, $ 929 million was invested in US indoor farming ventures, more than double the investment in 2019. PitchBook data. The grocery chain and California’s largest berry producer Alliance with vertical farming,Also.

“There is no doubt that we are reinventing agriculture, but what we are doing is reinventing the fresh food supply chain,” said Manhattan-based indoor farm in New Jersey. Irving Fain, founder and chief executive officer of Bowery, said. One is under construction in Maryland and the other in Pennsylvania, and two research farms are in New Jersey.

Mr Fine said his farm is 100 times more productive than traditional farms and uses 95% less water. Other companies claim that one acre can grow as much food as a traditional farm can grow at 390.

Vertical farming can be built next to the city center, so lettuce, for example, doesn’t have to sit in a truck for days when heading from California to the east coast, losing both quality and quality. Nutritional value.. Vegetables are grown for flavor, not storage and yield.

The new system was designed to produce pesticide-free sanitary crops in computer-monitored sanitary buildings, forcing a major recall of Lomain Lettuce in 2019 and 2020. There is little risk of contamination by bacteria such as E. coli.

Still, many farmers and scientists remain unconvincing. Chapman of the Real Organic Project was engaged in hydroponics at the US Department of Agriculture. Task force Five years ago, he led an effort to encourage distributors not to allow hydroponics farmers to certify their produce as organic produce. According to him and others, the very definition of organic farming depends on creating healthy soil. May, Food Safety Center, Environmental groups, led Appeal of Federal Court Decision It upheld the policy of government agencies.

The nutritional profile of hydroponics continues to improve, but no one yet knows what long-term health implications for fruits and vegetables grown without soil. No matter how many nutrients an indoor farmer puts in water, critics say that an indoor farmer can rival the taste and nutritional value that comes from a combination of sun, healthy soil microbes, and common phytobiology. They can’t and claim they can’t offer environmental benefits-run an organic farm.

“What are the health consequences of the second generation?” Chapman asked. “This is a huge live experiment and we are mice.”

The gap between soil lovers and ag-tech futurists has spread on a much closer scale between two influential brothers, Dan and David Barber, who found and own organic farms. Masu Blue Hill Restaurants in Greenwich Village and Stoneburn, Pocantico Hills, NY

Created by David Barber in 2018 Investment fund To support new food technology companies, including Bowery. But the 2014 book “Third plate: Field notes on the future of foodDedicates the entire section to the soil and believes that truly delicious food can only come from Earth.

“I haven’t bought it,” said Dan Barber about the heat of hydroponics.

It is virtually impossible to try to fortify water with nutrients to mimic what the soil does, he said.

“We know more about the stars and the sky than the soil,” he said. “In fact, we don’t know much about nutrition.”

There are also cultural costs. For centuries, he said, cooking has been developed based on what the land and plants demand. The Mexican diet in the corn and bean-based region was born out of farmers’ awareness that corn grows better in the presence of beans that fix nitrogen in the soil.

“The technological agricultural revolution is changing this equation head-on,” Barber said. It helps efficiency in the name of feeding more people, but divorces food from nature.

His brother, David, was also skeptical of hydroponics for a long time. “Most of my career has been that good soil leads to good agriculture, good systems, and ultimately good flavors,” said David Barber.

But the environmental benefits of next-generation hydroponics cannot be ignored, he said. It also does not taste better than previous hydroponic produce. “They combine outdoor and indoor thinking, and science and history to create something special,” he said. “There aren’t many winners in this area, but they will be part of our food system.”

Indoor farmers see competition as a large industrial producer producing fruits and vegetables grown to withstand processing and shipping, rather than small farmers using more natural cultivation techniques. They say the fight is against monoculture, not the farmers who maintain healthy soil and feed the community. Hydroponic farms can help develop new and more diverse plants and reduce the overall use of pesticides.

“All we’re trying to do is be as good as a farmer 100 years ago,” said hydroponic lettuce grower Malechuk.

Kentucky-born founder and CEO of App Harvest, Jonathan Webb, said indoor farming is a bet on national farming.

“American farmers are already out of date,” he said, noting that the United States imports £ 4 billion of tomatoes from Mexico each year. “Our hope is to be able to bring farmers back to US shelves.”

Coriccio also Lead the campaign Opposed to genetically modified foods and long advocate for smallholders, he said the two farming styles could coexist. “The toolbox needs a lot of tools,” he said.

Uita MichelKentucky chef App Harvest likes App Harvest because the company creates jobs and grows tomatoes that they are happy to use in restaurants.

But technology will never beat the magic of the soil, she said. “There is no substitute for my summer Kentucky tomatoes.”

There is no soil. There is no growth period. Just add water and technology.

Source link There is no soil. There is no growth period. Just add water and technology.

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