Today’s Solutions: January 21, 2022

What is farming without the sun or dirt? Well, it seems it’s just the future of farming.

We’ve written before about urban farms that grow crops efficiently within warehouses using LED lighting and hydroponics growth systems, but oftentimes these farms focus solely on leafy greens. But if we want to advance urban farming, we need to be able to grow more than just leafy greens. AeroFarms, a urban farming company based in New Jersey, is on a mission to do just that.

The company’s farming method requires no soil, no sunlight, and very little water. With this farming method, they are able to grow carrots, cucumbers, potatoes, and, of course, baby greens, which it sells to grocers on the East Coast including Whole Foods, ShopRite, and Fresh Direct. By growing locally year-round, the company hopes it will be able to provide fresher produce at a lower price point since transportation will be kept to a minimum. (Currently, about 90 percent of the leafy greens consumed in the U.S. between November and March come from the Southwest, according to Bloomberg.)

Beyond cutting down on transportation by growing food locally, its the method with which AeroFarms grows food that is grabbing attention. The growing method is 130 times more productive per square foot annually than a field farm, from a crop-yield perspective. An AeroFarm also uses 95 percent less water than a field farm, 40 percent less fertilizer than traditional farming, and no pesticides.

Crops that usually take 30 to 45 days to grow, like the leafy gourmet greens that make up most of the company’s output, take as little as 12. This is all possible thanks to a growing technique created by the founder of AeroFarms in which crops are grown in a cloth material that is sprayed with a nutrient-rich mist. The result is rapidly-grown crops that require minimal resources.

This story was one of the best from 2019, and we are happy to include it in our “12 Days of Optimism” as we welcome in the new year!

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