Food is a basic need of every human being that must be fulfilled every day. Therefore, food production must continue to increase in number from day to day to meet all of these great needs. In 2050, the World Health Organization estimates, there will be 9 billion people on Earth where 70 percent of the amount will be living in urban areas. With this much amount, whether the food needs will be met if we only rely on conventional agriculture where mostly located in the suburbs? The need for food in 2050 according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is 3 billion tones where food availability now approximately 2.1 billion tones. So, we had to increase approximately 1 billion tones to meet the needs of the food.
Indoor urban agriculture is not a new thing in the world. However, some companies have managed to prove that through the indoor urban agriculture, they also have helped provide food in the country. By using the abandoned buildings where widely spread all over the city, they start this activity, even become a very big business.
As we know, the indoor urban agriculture is not a process of growing plants in a natural way in the whole system. Some tools should still be used so that they can create a habitat which is so similar to the original. Therefore, the advantages and disadvantages do exist. That thing I will try to explain one by one later. I will also try to give some examples of companies which have managed to do indoor urban agriculture.
Almost all the companies engaged in this field using hydroponics and aquaponics to grow these plants. Hydroponics is a method of farming without using the soil as a growing medium, but using mineral nutrient fluid. Similar to hydroponics, but aquaponics can not necessarily be used after all growing media available and vitamins given. In aquaponics method, we have to wait about 1 month so that the protein in the water is already well developed. In addition, they also use artificial light instead of the sun which can not get from the the room.
From several articles, mentioned that the first advantage of the indoor urban agriculture is the farmers do not have to be afraid of unavailability of the land for planting. Many of them use the abandoned buildings where scattered throughout the city. Second, because it is in the room, growers are not afraid with the state of the weather, climate or natural disasters so that they can plant any time and under any circumstances. Third, from several crops that have been passed, the results obtained from the indoor urban agriculture proved more. As said by Mark Thomann, chief executive officer of FarmedHere, “We can grow 200 percent more food per square foot than traditional agriculture, and without the use of chemical fertilizers.”
But, beside all these advantages there are still disadvantages generated by indoor urban agriculture. First, indoor urban agriculture requires modern technologies to create a suitable habitat for the plant. As a simple example, they need a light which is on within several hours to replace the function of the sun in conventional agriculture. In addition to the best LED which suit with this function is still under study, we can imagine how much energy and money will be spent on these lights. Although several studies have been successful in increasing the presentation of the efficiency, but still this has not been maximum. Second, not all plants can be grown indoors. Some of the plant grown in the room now is basically an outdoor plant. Therefore, J. Michael Gould, director of Texas A & M’s AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Dallas said that the breeding programs need to begin to breed plants for indoor environments.
FarmedHere is the Largest Indoor aquaphonic vertical farm in the United State. Started their business by using an abandon warehouse, now FarmedHere has become a big business. As mentioned previously, FarmedHere also using hydroponics and aquaponics to grow crops. Some plants which planted by FarmedHere are baby leaf lettuces are, mustard greens, mild Brassica greens, basil, mint and Arugula.
There’s something interesting from an aquaponics method used by FarmedHere. They use a closed-loop method aquaponic system. The process from this system is the tilapia (a type of fish) are kept in a large tank to produce waste. Water containing waste from the tilapia is supplied to the planting medium. Those Water is excellent as growing media because it contains a lot of protein. From there, the plants will help to filter the water. The clean water filtered by the plants will be flowed back to the tilapia’s tank and so on.
CLOSED-LOOP METHOD AQUAPONIC SYSTEM
Disasters that often occur in Japan make agricultural land does not get the crop. This inspired Shigeharu Shimamura, a Japanese plant physiologist to start indoor urban agriculture. Finally, he changed a former Sony Corporation semiconductor factory into the world’s Largest indoor farm. This Indoor Agriculture has an almost equally large with a big a football field (25,000 Square Feet).
The project began when General Electric (GE) invited him to cooperate. Shimamura said that he knew how to grow a good crop with the knowledge he has. Now, he wants to integrate science with technology in order to create a better plant. From this collaboration, GE provide all LED lights needed by the plants. GE even do their own research in order to create an LED lamp which is necessary, but still thin enough to be easily applied on the shelves of the growing media. GE’s LED lights provide uniform light and eendure the high humidity inside
Shimamura focuses on planting lettuce in his indoor agriculture. With this method, Shimamura claims that he can produce lettuce that contain vitamins and minerals two-and-a-half times faster than an outdoor farm. He also said that by using this method, it can cut the discarded produce from 50 percent to just 10 percent of the harvest, Compared to a conventional farm. He can get all of that by controlling temperature, humidity and irrigation properly. This farm can also cut its water usage to just 1 percent of the amount needed by the outdoor fields.
Big box Farm. An indoor agriculture business owned by Jordan Motzkin, 22 years in New York. He won a sum of money from the National Science Foundation and the College of the Atlantic for his startup, Big Box Farms.
Motzkin dream is to plant millions of organic lettuce and basil. He will start this business from an old Brooklyn warehouse. Motzkin cooperate with Philips Electronics to provide the latest LED lighting technology which has not even been marketed to the public. Motzkin claimed that the new technology can increase the percentage of energy efficiency from 40% to 60%. All of these operations will be done by Motzkin through in their iPhone Application – from indoor climate control and LED lighting to Hydroponics.
Basically, each indoor method or outdoor method has its own advantages and disadvantages. Until now, it has not been established which the best method to use. However, for me, given the need of the food is increasing from day to day, it would be better if these two methods can cooperate with each other and meet the needs of the food rather than constantly looking for which one is better.