Indoor Farming 101

Indoor Farming or Controlled-Environment Agriculture (CEA) is a form of urban agriculture, which is the practice of “...cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around a village, town, or city” (Wikipedia). There are a variety of indoor farm configurations ranging from small home units that grow fifty plants at a time to large commercial farms capable of growing millions of plants in a year. Regardless of capacity, the objective of an indoor farming system is control of the growth environment (light, nutrition, temperature, humility) to optimize plant growth.

The practice of growing plants indoors dates to Roman times and has traditionally been represented by modern greenhouses. Over the past five years, significant advances have occurred in the growth of certain vegetables (especially, green leafy ones) and fruit using indoor farming technology. These advances have been led by the evolution of LED lighting; research that identified the ideal growth environment of certain plants; new plant varieties developed to grow indoors; and the development of computer applications that control and monitor all aspects of an indoor farm’s operations. In the coming years, additional advances in indoor farming technology and the development of new plant varieties could radically improve world food production.

A commercial indoor farm is an integrated, self-contained facility. It is composed of computer hardware and software that manages all production processes, LED grow lights, grow panels/trays, seed and growth medium (soil is not used in the growth process), pumps and sensors, packaging facilities, cold storage, and a bio room to minimize pests.

The primary technologies used in a commercial indoor farm are aeroponics and hydroponics. Aeroponics delivers nutrients in a mist. Hydroponics works by submerging plant roots in water filled with dissolved nutrients. Both technologies use LED lighting and computer applications to monitor and control the growth environment. Queen City Farms will use an hydroponics system to grow crops.

 

Why Charlotte needs indoor farming

Mecklenburg-County-food-insecurity-indicators.png

North Carolina has the 4th highest percentage of food insecure residents (10.5%) in the country. In Charlotte, it’s closer to 16%, meaning over 150,000 people are living in food insecure neighborhoods. Many of the city’s groceries stores built in the last 10 years have opened in the southern quarter, in affluent neighborhoods like Dilworth, Southpark and Ballantyne. But lower-income areas like West Charlotte, the North End, and the Albermarle -Independence Corridor are not so lucky. Many residents without transportation have to figure out how to travel 2-3 miles each way to find food for their families.

The produce that most grocery stores receive is coming from across the country, meaning that its been processed and stored multiple times before reaching the store. By time it reaches your plate, they are practically tasteless and essentially empty calories. It is a waste of time, energy and resources that many families cannot afford.

Charlotte’s residents deserve better. It doesn’t have to be this way. New farming techniques and technologies allow for the production of food within cities. By producing food in the middle of the city all year round, we can become that source of local, sustainable food production that the city yearns for. We believe that the key to solving Charlotte’s food insecurity issues is the power of indoor vertical farming!