Traditionally, agriculture was done on large open farms, having a large dependence on external environmental factors. In recent times, there is a new vertical emerging in agriculture, giving promising results i.e., Indoor farming or vertical farming. Particular challenges that were faced in conventional cultivation techniques have been resolved with indoor agriculture. Though growing indoors can never be a replacement for outdoor agriculture, it can certainly help in growing certain vegetables, herbs, microgreens, and more.
Let’s have a comparative study of indoor growing vs. outdoor growing.
Traditional outdoor growing is largely dependent on weather conditions. Only seasonal crops can be grown. Weather conditions can be the biggest nightmares for farmers as things like thunderstorms, floods, droughts can damage crops overnight. By growing indoors, we eliminate our dependence on the weather. Instead, growers can control the climate inside the indoor growing system creating the ideal environment for maximum outputs. Using a wide range of sensors, indoor growers can check their plants at all times.
The crops are more prone to pests and other animal damage as they are exposed to the outer environment. We recently saw the locust attack that happened; it devastated large areas of crops. We saw how fast they travelled and farmers couldn’t take measures in time. They had to spray large amounts of pesticides to protect the remaining crops that eventually went into our systems. The pesticides and chemical fertilizers used are a root cause of major ailments like cancers, immune disorders, infertility, and cardiovascular diseases.
Indoor grown edibles need fewer chemical additives to grow well. Being indoors, they are not prone to pests. Also, the environment is controlled; therefore, there is no need for pesticides or herbicides. Therefore, the vegetables are pure.
About 70% of the world’s freshwater goes to agriculture. And with increasing populations, this water requirement is expected to go up by 15% by2050. This is a thing we should be afraid of, as the freshwater resources are declining. If things keep going in the same way, there is a possibility that we might not be able to keep up with the requirements. Taking the case of indoor growing, techniques such as hydroponics take up to 90-95% less water. They use a closed-loop system, where there is no wastage, and resources are optimally utilized.
The current agriculture system is centralized. Therefore, fruits and vegetables have to travel thousands of miles before they reach us. In the meanwhile, they lose a considerable amount of nutritional content. For example, spinach loses about 50-90% of its vitamin C within 24 hours of being harvested, which means the vegetables and fruits we eat at our homes in cities is not as nutritional as it should be.
In the case of indoor growing, which is generally done in cities near our homes, transportation time is less than 5-6 hours. Therefore, they are fresh and highly nutritious.
About 40% of the world’s food is wasted due to the pre and post-harvest losses. Pre-harvest losses occur before harvesting begins, and may be due to insects, weeds, and rusts. Post-harvest losses occur between harvest and the moment of human consumption. Fruits and vegetables are perishable products and tend to get spoiled or degraded with time and unfavourable factors. Indoor growing has very low wastage as they rarely get diseases; they are near to cities and therefore, have lower transportation times. The edibles are consumed soon after they are harvested.
This comparison is just a brief glimpse of how growing indoors is more beneficial as compared to conventional growing. However, this article does not mean that indoor growing can replace proper farming. Outdoor farming can not be eliminated but can be decentralized, and with the help of indoor growing techniques, we can revolutionize the current agriculture system for the better.
About the author: Palak Kumar is an insatiably curious Mechanical Engineering student, passionate about flying, clouds, literature, and plants, working towards revolutionizing Indoor Vertical Growing.