Indoor farms bloom despite challenges

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. break ground / breɪk graʊnd / (idiom) – to start a construction project, such as a structure or building

    An international hotel is expected to break ground in this city soon.

  2. bankruptcy / ˈbæŋk rʌpt si / (n.) – a state of not having the money or funds to pay debts resulting in financial failure

    The owner failed to manage his business and debts and is now facing bankruptcy.

  3. tout / taʊt / (v.) – to talk about how good or effective something or someone is

    The sales team will tout the new product at an exhibition before its official release.

  4. churn / tʃɜrn / (n.) – the frequency or amount of changes that happen in businesses involving losing existing customers, adding new customers, products, etc.

    Despite the business churn during the pandemic, the company continues to think of ways to attract new customers and keep them.

  5. skeptic / ˈskɛp tɪk / (n.) – someone who doubts or questions something, such as an idea, statement, or belief

    The skeptics didn’t believe the results the researchers published about a new virus.


Read the text below.

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. 

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • What are your thoughts about indoor farming (ex. it’s a game-changer for agriculture, it can enhance food security)? Do you think farmers in your country would want to adopt this method? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • In your opinion, should the government encourage traditional farmers to transition to indoor farming? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Skeptics question the sustainability of operations of indoor farming. Would you also consider yourself a skeptic of this modern farming method? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • In your opinion, what other modern methods or practices related to climate change are people skeptical about (ex. renewable energy transition, electric vehicles)? Why do you think this is so? Discuss.