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Eden Green Technology is one of the latest crop of indoor farming companies seeking their fortunes with green factories meant to pump out harvests of fresh produce all year long. The company operates two greenhouses and has broken ground on two more at its Cleburne, Texas campus, where the indoor facilities are meant to shelter their portion of the food supply from climate change while using less water and land.
But that’s if the concept works. And players in the industry are betting big right alongside failing or uncertain ventures. California-based Plenty this summer broke ground on a $300 million facility, while Kroger announced that it will be expanding its availability of vertically farmed produce. Meanwhile, two indoor farming companies that attracted strong startup money — New Jersey’s AeroFarms and Kentucky’s AppHarvest — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. And a five-year-old company in Detroit, Planted Detroit, shut its doors this summer, with the CEO citing financial problems just months after touting plans to open a second farm.
The industry churn doesn’t bother Jacob Portillo, a grower with Eden Green who directs a plant health team and monitors irrigation, nutrients and other factors related to crop needs.
Indoor farming, as the name implies, is the process of growing food inside in what experts sometimes refer to as “controlled environment agriculture.” There are different methods under that umbrella — one popular technique called vertical farming involves stacking produce from floor to ceiling, often under artificial lights and with the plants growing in nutrient-enriched water. Other growers are trying industrial-scale greenhouses, indoor beds of soil in massive warehouses and special robots to mechanize parts of the farming process.
Advocates say growing food indoors uses less water and land, and allows for food to grow closer to consumers, saving “food miles” (the distance required to transport food). It’s also a way to protect crops from increasingly extreme weather caused by climate change.
But skeptics question the sustainability of operations that can require intensive, and expensive, artificial light. And they say paying for that energy can make profitability impossible.
This article was provided by The Associated Press.