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A look inside Gotham Greens’s new high-tech indoor farming operation in Northern California

Gotham Greens opened this 10-acre greenhouse between Dixon and Davis in northern Solano County in December 2021. (Bill Mahon photo) Feb. 16, 2022
Written by Publishing Team

This process is scientifically controlled to adjust and monitor the concentration of these nutrients. Water is continuously recycled, filtered and tested to ensure quality and to maintain proper nutrient levels.

Environmental controls

Technological advances continue to drive growth in this market using intelligent greenhouse climate-controlled systems, including robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), as well as computer vision, sensors, monitors, testing systems and controls.

Another innovation involves realizing improved efficiency resulting in lower costs associated with red and blue wavelength LED grow lights used in greenhouses as well as vertical indoor farming configurations built in city high rises, within former warehouses or inside shipping containers.

Enhancing food safety

Indoor farming also helps to avoid issues related to bacterial contamination, insect damage and related concerns that occasionally impact field-grown plants.

“No one is completely immune. Every food producer is susceptible to issues associated with food safety. However, our highly sensitive environmental controls and monitoring systems minimize such risks and enhance our ability to track and trace every produce batch from our indoor farms to retailer shelves,” said Puri.

He said controls are in place at every stage of the production cycle beginning when quality seed is sourced, while raising seedlings in a nursery, when setting small plants out on the horizontal greenhouse platform, while nurturing plants during a less than a month growing period to maturity, followed by harvesting and packing produce for shipment.

Less water and land use

Another factor making indoor farming more desirable is because traditional outdoor agricultural methods use a lot of water. Some 70% of the world’s fresh water, 6 billion pounds of pesticides and 189 tons of chemical fertilizers are used annually for farming, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Puri said Gotham Greens uses 95% less water, 97% less land, no pesticides and 100% renewable energy.

“Gotham Greens’ greenhouse farms primarily rely on natural sunlight for photosynthesis, which reduces energy costs compared to other models of indoor farming, making our business more energy efficient, sustainable, resulting in higher quality produce,” Puri added.

During winter months, when daylight is shorter, the company also uses supplemental lighting to optimize the total amount of light needed for growth.

“Using advanced growing techniques, we have been able to increase output from a one-acre greenhouse to typically grow requiring 35 acres. One head of lettuce grown indoors only needs a gallon of water before harvest compared to 10 gallons per head when grown outdoors.”

He added that given ongoing water shortages in the West, especially in California and Arizona where most US lettuce is grown, indoor farming will play a greater role in the future when it comes to growing produce.

Global indoor farming market

The size of the global indoor farming market was estimated to be $32.2 billion in 2020, which is expected to reach $36.4 billion in 2021, according to Grand View Research, based in San Francisco.

The worldwide indoor farming market is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.9% from 2021 to 2028 — reaching $75.3 billion by 2028, the research firm reported.

The value of produce grown in global indoor markets is estimated to reach $38.7 billion in 2022, with sales increasing at a 9.6% CAGR over the forecast period rising to an expected $96.6 billion by 2032, based on Future Markets Insight research.

Fruit, vegetables and herbs are expected to dominate the indoor farming market through 2028 with a CAGR of 11.5% for this segment. Demand for tomatoes, lettuce, leafy greens, cucumbers and bell and chili peppers are driving overall market segment growth with tomatoes having the largest share, according to Grand View Research.

These productivity improvements cannot come soon enough with the global population estimated to reach 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion by 2100, according to a United Nations report.

Vertical farming is trending

While greenhouse indoor farming was the most common type in 2018, with 80% of built with this concept, vertical farming facilities, including stacked and shelf models, is expected to exhibit the fastest CAGR of around 19% over the next 6 years due to the Environmentally friendly production methods for fruit and vegetables, as well as high demand for organic food and changing purchase behavior among consumers. The vertical farming market size was valued at $4.34 billion in 2021.

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