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An increasingly viable solution for climate change is Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), implemented across the U.S., in states likes Iowa.
The water, energy, and food security nexus is a real and present problem.
Here are some highlights from the website of The Agrarian Group:
As a species, we face the most complex and deadly problems we have ever encountered. Erratic weather events caused by climate change destroy crop yields each year. Pesticides have ruined our soil and water scarcity has become a national security issue. 70% of food cost is linked to fossil fuels, and prices are only expected to rise. The average food item travels 1500 miles to reach it's destination. However, despite everything we do, 40% of all food in the United States is thrown away post-harvest.
The Agrarian Group was started as an answer to a question - How will we feed the projected 9.1 Billion people that will reside on earth in 2050? To achieve this, we need to increase our already stressed agricultural production by 70%. How do we grow better?
Agtech solutions can help solve the challenges we face.
Here is an example of Agtech Solutions in Iowa:
People who subscribe to the Ames, Iowa, company Nebullam get a bag of fresh produce delivered directly to their doorstep. Leafy greens or cherry tomatoes that were harvested at most three hours ago.
The food isn’t just local. It’s grown indoors.
Rows of plants are stacked on top of each other in an industrialized room in the Iowa State University Research Park, in what’s called a vertical farm. Nebullam controls the lighting, water and temperature to create ideal conditions to grow fresh produce year-round.
The plants get all the nutrients they need to thrive. No more, no less.
And there are no pesticides used because there are no bugs. The CEO jokes that the only bugs Nebullam has to deal with are software-related.
The plants soak up artificial sunlight through ever-more-advanced LEDs.
Yet those LEDs also put the eco-friendliness of vertical farming in a jam. The light requires electricity that — despite growth in renewable energy sources like wind power — comes largely from fossil fuels that belch greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Co-founder and CEO Clayton Mooney said he sees a lot of benefits to vertical farming.
“There are fewer steps to actually get fresh, healthier food to someone,” Mooney said. “We can grow closer to the consumer. Because we can control the environment, there’s a lot less waste from our side.”
Mooney said Nebullam is mostly focused on leafy greens because other crops, like corn, would be more expensive to grow in this environment.
Nebullam has been around since 2017. Mooney said the company started out wanting to be a technology provider to new and expanding indoor farms. It also sold lettuce to local restaurants and grocers.
But when the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020, its mission evolved, and the company started selling and delivering lettuce directly to consumers on a subscription basis. Nebullam delivers to consumers in central and eastern Iowa: Ames, Ankeny, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Coralville and Iowa City.
Roughly 40,000 plants grow in a 1,000-square-foot space at the vertical farm. Nebullam keeps the room temperature between 65 and 68 degrees year-round. Mooney said any water the plants don’t use is recycled back into the system.
“For every month we grow plants in our growing equipment, we save one year’s worth of water when compared to traditional methods,” Mooney said.
Nebullam uses significantly less land than traditional agriculture. But vertical farms mimic sunlight with artificial lights, and that takes energy.
Nebullam’s plants bathe under strips of LED lighting that shine 12 hours a day.