Investment in facility agriculture in North America and Europe has exceeded 2 billion USD dollars, spurring a large number of start-ups and large companies to engage in innovation. A new report, “Growing Beyond the Hype: Controlled Environment Agriculture” launched by S2G Ventures, reveals that innovations in greenhouse and indoor farming will have a knock-on effect across the food system and sustainable farming methods. Facility agriculture will have a profound impact on the future of the agricultural food system from three key points.
1.Localised facility agriculture will lead to a more resilient, traceable and reliable supply chain.
Walter Robb, former co-chief executive of “Whole Foods”, said: "Facility agriculture provides consumers and supply chain stakeholders with resilient and sustainable local quality produce. As a growing part of the agro-food system, facility agriculture can work with farm production to mitigate climate risks and help address systemic nutrition and food access challenges."
Local production saves food miles by shortening transportation routes, minimizes the shelf life of food consumed during transportation, and reduces food waste at both the retail and consumer ends. In addition, farming in a controlled environment improves food safety, traceability and product consistency.
2 Technological and operational advances drive and improve the economic viability of facility agriculture, which can compete with farmland cultivation
With continuous innovation, improved cropping systems, and facility productivity optimization, greenhouse and indoor cropping will become more cost-effective. Those innovations combined with controlled environment agriculture’s higher number of grow cycles, 10+ for Greenhouse and 20+ for Indoor, will enable controlled environment agriculture to achieve unit economics that are at cost parity with outdoor.
3 Innovations in biodiversity, nutrient density and flavor will enable facility agriculture to provide differentiated, high-quality products to retailers.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, about 75 percent of the world's food comes from just five kinds of animals and 12 kinds of plants. Almost half of all plant-based calories come from three sources: wheat, corn and rice. These staple crops are often grown for long-term storage and disease resistance, but at the expense of flavor, color and nutritional value.
Facility agriculture offers new cropping patterns, methods and technologies that promise to enhance product consistency and diversity while improving the quality of agricultural products.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought challenges to agricultural supply and increased pressure from climate change to traditional farming. Controlled environment planting is the key solution to the current situation. In the face of these pressures and continued consumer demand for fresh produce, facility agriculture could increase its market share fivefold over the next 10 years.
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