The types of crops grown indoors are evolving as agricultural technology advances and the demand for local food increases across North America. Crops typically grown in Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) facilities include:
- Leafy Greens: Lettuce, spinach, kale, arugula, and other salad greens are some of the most commonly grown crops in CEA facilities.
- Herbs: Basil, cilantro, parsley, and mint are popular herbs grown in CEA facilities. These crops can be grown year-round, and their fresh flavor and aroma make them a popular choice for culinary purposes.
- Microgreens: Microgreens are young seedlings of vegetables and herbs harvested when they are just a few inches tall. Commonly used as a garnish or as an ingredient in salads, sandwiches, and other dishes, nutrient-dense microgreens are increasingly popular.
In recent years, the list of CEA crops has been expanding into a second tier of crops, including:
- Mushrooms: Button, shiitake, and oyster mushroom cultivation require specific temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels to promote optimal growth. CEA facility operators can closely monitor and control these conditions.
- Tomatoes: Many varieties of tomatoes are popular indoor crops because they require a controlled environment to grow successfully. They can be grown hydroponically or in soil-based systems.
- Strawberries and other berries: Strawberries are commonly grown hydroponically, can be grown year-round, and produce a high yield in a small space.
- Cucumbers: Cucumbers are popular because they are easy to grow and produce a high yield in a small space. They are typically grown hydroponically.
- Peppers: Bell peppers, chili peppers, and other varieties of peppers can be grown in CEA facilities. They require a warm, humid environment to grow successfully.
- Cannabis: With the legalization of cannabis in many parts of the U.S., it has become an important CEA crop.
A third tier of CEA crops is poised to emerge in popularity and importance to the agriculture economy:
- Mature seedlings for transplantation outdoors: Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and berries are food crop examples, but also annual and cut flower crops are started indoors. Pre-farming or pre-growing in a controlled environment ensures that the plants are healthy and strong before they are transplanted outdoors. This growing method typically improves the success rate of outdoor production and reduces the risk of disease and pest infestations. Pre-growing seedlings can also help to extend the growing season and increase yields.
- Ingredients for pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, and cosmeceuticals:Researchers are working with medicinal plants such as ginseng, echinacea, and chamomile to ascertain appropriateness for cultivation in CEA facilities.
- Specialty crops: These include spirulina, insects, and salmon.
- Avocados: Avocado trees can take years to mature and require specific growing conditions, such as warm temperatures and high humidity. Growing avocados in CEA facilities could help reduce the time it takes for trees to mature and optimize growth and yield.
- Vanilla: Vanilla is a high-value crop typically grown in tropical climates. However, CEA facilities could provide a controlled environment that allows vanilla to be produced in a wider range of locations, potentially reducing transportation costs and increasing accessibility to this popular flavoring.
As the types of crops grown indoors evolve, the grow light industry will have to evolve with it. Read the full story here.
Image: Ultra Yield Solutions