Controlled Environment Agriculture: Methods and Benefits

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controlled environment agriculture

With changing technologies and innovations not only in retail and automotive but also in agriculture, Controlled Environment Agriculture CEA, is gaining popularity.

Researchers and development firms love the applications of CEA, food producers are moving towards its practices because it contains less contamination from chemicals and provides a safe food supply.

Moreover, it allows food growth in harsh environments and protects them from conditions like storms, and floods.

Controlled Environment Agriculture of crops not only controls certain aspects of the environment but also reduces the pest and diseases in the crops.

This increases the effectiveness and is a more sustainable form of agriculture that is increasing yields and savings costs.

This type of agriculture includes automation of temperature, humidity, light, carbon dioxide, nutrients, and more.

Moreover, crops are grown for food, nutraceutical, and pharmaceutical applications using data and technology.

Understand CEA

According to the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center:

“Controlled Environment Agriculture CAE, is a production of plants and their products, such as vegetables and flowers, inside controlled environment structures such as greenhouses, vertical farms in UAE, and growth chambers.

controlled environment agriculture 1

By using CEA, we can produce high-value crops at maximum productivity in an efficient and environmentally friendly way.”

Moreover, the two technology-driven growing methods are:

  • Hydroponics
  • Aeroponics

Hydroponic growing is in which plants are grown in water rather than soil.

Nutrients are added to the water to ensure healthy plants with maximum output.

However, Aeroponics is the growth of plants when their roots are exposed to the air.

Farmers spray mist on the roots regularly with water and vitamin solutions, which they can absorb.

Importance of CEA

The importance of CEA is increasing as a number of farmers are using this model.

The importance of CEA can be understood clearly as it uses less water, does not rely on degrading soil, and can grow plants all year round.

controlled environment agriculture 2

Moreover, it allows farmers precisely to control conditions and keeps and contamination at bay.

A researcher Micheal Barron sums up CEA as farmers are able to control the product more and can have higher quality.

Moreover, they can change the nutrition of the plants.

It allows you to experiment with your yield and gives you a lot more control over the crop and its production.

How CEA is Helping Shape the Future

According to a report, the market for CEA is exponentially growing.

It is helping to shape the future because it allows the conservation of water and nutrients.

It is, however, one of the many advantages of using CEA agriculture over conventional farming methods.

These farming techniques that including hydroponics, aquaponics, and other soilless techniques are effective for preventing wastage of water and overuse of nutrients.

Moreover, in a controlled environment, plants have better health and faster growth.

This, however, reduces the need for pesticides, fertilizers, and other supplements.

Because of CEA, the plants have a noticeably better size and quality than those in soil.

controlled environment agriculture 3

More controlled environment agriculture means better production of healthy greens and more plants.

They are also locally available year-round and even in urban and harsh climates.

According to an article, controlled environment agriculture in tall buildings will create greater food safety and security for the population.

Moreover, this article states that greenhouse technologies, guarantee a safe and reliable food supply.

They can also be located near urban settings.

By stacking the buildings on top of each other in a good fashion manner, we can greatly reduce our agriculture footprint.

Moreover, we can apply the vertical farm model to every urban center, regardless of the location of the farms.

According to another source, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture is providing grants to help design the CEA training programs.

This will help build a workforce that has sufficient skills for this industry.

Types of Growing Environments

The following are the type of environments for Controlled Environment Agriculture and depends on the country, region, and type of grower:

Indoor Farming: This type of crop production utilizes supplemental lighting such as LED lights instead of sunlight.

controlled environment agriculture 4

It gives the ability to control the environment.

This can also include rooms, warehouses, containers, factories, and other indoor spaces for growing crops.

Vertical Farming: In this type, for the production of crops, it uses vertical spaces.

Farmers can stack plants horizontally or in the form of tall towers. It is great for small spaces like shipping containers or high-density spaces as it requires less land for cultivation.

Greenhouse: A greenhouse is a glass polycarbonate structure.

It uses sunlight for the production of crops.

Many variables like temperature, humidity, and sunlight are considerable when growing produce in a greenhouse.

controlled environment agriculture 5

Moreover, these are more considerable in the summer months.

Protected Cropping: Outdoor farming in which there is protection against certain elements like under hoop houses, tunnel houses, or canopies.

However, in this type, pest management or pest control is harder as the crops are outdoors.

Moreover, this type can provide protection against rain, hail, and frost.

Learn more about IoT Applications in Agriculture here.

Types of Growing Methods

Farmers can grow crops using different methods within this environment.

So far, the most popular method is Hydroponics.

These are

  • Hydroponics
  • Aeroponics
  • Aquaponics
  • Fogponics (Mistponics)

Let us discuss the types of growing methods in controlled environment agriculture one by one.

Hydroponics

It is the growing of plants without soil as a medium of growth.

It delivers water, nutrients, and oxygen without the medium of soil and can grow in sand, gravel, rock wool, coconut fiber, and oasis cubes.

Moreover, it is a sustainable way of growing crops with water. A potential saving of 70-90% of water is there.

hydroponics

The conservation of water depends on the type of crop and the setup.

There are different types of Hydroponic systems and include:

  • NFT, Nutrient Film Techniques
  • Drip System
  • Ebb and Flow (flood and drain system)
  • Wick
  • Water culture (Deepwater Culture)

Farmers can grow leafy greens, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, herbs, and medicinal cannabis using this method.

Aeroponics

This system involves growing plants without soil and using little water.

The farms suspend the roots of plants in the air and spray water with a nutrient solution.

Generally, the roots are in an enclosed environment which ensures the nutrient mist absorbs in the root structures.

aeroponics

This type is typically used in greenhouses which use sunlight as the main source of light.

However, the use of supplement light is also there, if the plants need it.

This is water sustainable type of growing plant, that uses 90% less water than some hydroponics systems,

Aquaponics

This method of Controlled Environment Agriculture is a combination of aquaculture i.e. fish farming and hydroponics.

In an ecosystem this is flourishing, waste from the fish and the bacterium in the system delivers the nutrients to the plants.

Moreover, aquaponics relies on fast-growing fish like tilapia, perch, catfish, trout, etc, in order to supply nutrients for the plants.

aquaponics

These are set indoors as they do not require soil to grow.

Water recycling is in place to recycle it back to the fish. Moreover, species nurtures the other with no or fewer requirements for chemical fertilizers.

Fogponics

Many farmers describe it as the next phase of aeroponic technology.

This method uses the same basic premise of suspending the roots in the air and supplying them with water and nutrients.

Fogponics uses droplets that are practically vapors.

This rich-nutrient fog when goes to the stems, leaves, and roots result in faster and better absorption.

Benefits of Controlled Environment Agriculture

There are a number of benefits of Controlled Environment Agriculture. These are:

1# Reduction in Carbon Emission

Imports all around the world account for CO2 emissions as we need food to be transported by land, air, or sea.

Controlled environment agriculture allows the growth of the crop in local environments that can normally not survive otherwise.

Moreover, with this model, there is no such thing as seasonal produce unless the farmer decides on different crop growth at different times of the year.

benefits

As this model allows the growth of all types of crops locally, there is a reduction in carbon emissions.

2# Less land requirement

Vertical farms need less soca and land than outdoor farms and can grow easily 50 times the amount per square meter of landmass.

As we have a finite amount of land, and due to the growing population, farmers will have to produce 70% more food by 2050.

benefits 1

However, with traditional farming, this means an area of 593 million hectares of agricultural land, which is twice the size of India.

3# Reducation in Pesticides and Chemicals

In controlled environment agriculture, no pest means no pesticides.

There is no need to tackle powdery mildew, rust, blight, or other issues with chemicals and fertilizers.

Therefore, the crops are organic and natural.

4# Less Food Wastage

According to the United Nations, UN about one-third of the food is wasted all around the world.

Some of this wastage is due to harvesting and transporting even before it reaches the shops.

With CEA, automation in harvesting leads to less waste.

Moreover, there is little to no waste from crops spoiling in the fields due to pests, diseases, droughts, floods, and temperature extremes.

Also, when the food is used locally or within the country, there are fewer chances of spoiling during transportation.

5# Less Water Wastage

All crops need water to grow, however, with CEA, crops need 95% less water than traditional systems.

Moreover, water wastage is minimal.

benefits 2

Some vertical farms are now trying to use rainwater, however, the majority of them still need mains water.

Learn more about Carbon Negative Farming here.

Conclusion

With a growing population, increase in demand for food, and soil degradation, there is a need of using new and innovative methods for farming and growing plants.

This means using Controlled Environment Agriculture as it has many potential benefits including food security.

It not only allows the farmers to grow the plants out of season, but it can also control different factors that affect the growth of crops, pests, and uses of chemical fertilizers.

Also, it not only reduces CO2 emissions but also reduces costs of production, land requirement, and water wastage which are beneficial for the entire world.

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