The movement towards sustainable eating practices and farming has thrown a spotlight on the farm-to-fork journey. Increasingly, we are not just concerned with what is on our plate but with how it got there. That journey can now be measured in feet thanks to new at-home indoor farming systems.
From conventional manual watering systems to automated aeroponic, aquaponic and hydroponic systems, indoor farmers have a broad range of options for managing their own fresh food supply at home. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
What is Indoor Farming?
Indoor farming might have been pioneered bybig vertical farmers on a large scale, but that same technology is now coming into the home. Both commercial-scale and personal units offer a way to grow a variety of leafy greens, microgreens, herbs, flowering crops, vegetables and other produce in controlled conditions—helping bring fresh food to urban centers and food deserts.
Indoor growing is expected to be big business—a$40+ billion market by 2022. Not only does indoor farming lower food miles on essential produce, but it also reduces the need for pesticides and herbicides that can damage the environment and effect the overall nutrition of the crops. Crops can be grownyear-round and faster. Plus, as any chef with an onsite garden can testify, there is no substitute for home-grown produce when it comes to freshness and taste.
Indoor Farming Systems 101
Also referred to as ‘vertical’ farming, indoor farming typically uses the following growing methods:
Traditional - if you’ve got herb pots on the window ledge, you’re already farming indoors. This method is great for fresh micro herbs, but requires a reliable source of sunlight and someone to tend and water pots.
Aeroponic - plants are grown in a soil-free environment under LED lights and nourished by a nutrient-rich mist.
Aquaponic - plant and fish in perfect harmony. While not a simple arrangement to install at home, this system allows a tank of fish to fertilize the water, which is then filtered by the plants.
Hydroponic - plants grow in a nutrient-rich solution under LED lights.
The Benefits of Hydroponic Systems
In the traditional pot-and-soil system of indoor farming, plants are hostage to hours of sunshine and outside temperatures. Without some sort of glasshouse, there is rarely enough sunshine to grow leafy greens or tomatoes indoors. This, however is not the case with the indoor hydroponic garden, in which plants grow in a nutrient-rich, soil-free solution and are nourished byLED lighting. This makes it an extremely popular solution for those looking to set up growing systems both at home and in restaurants.
The results of hydroponic systems are remarkable: Plants raised with an indoor hydroponic system can grow 2 to 3 times faster than with conventional farming and use up to 10 times less water. When crops are ready to harvest, they can be prepared to eat within minutes, crossing no more than a matter of feet from farm to fork.
Start Indoor Farming and Consider Farmshelf
When it comes to setting up your own indoor hydroponic garden or farm, there are plenty of options you can choose from, including small countertop units designed to grow just one crop (typically herbs or microgreens) at a time to systems that are fully integrated into your kitchen.
Aplug-and-play system like Farmshelf, however, is for those who are interested in the benefits of growing at home but lack the know-how or time – as no green thumb is required. Thanks to the smart indoor farm, growers just sow the seed pods shipped to their door, turn on the power switch and connect the system to WiFi. A fully automated process then takes control to monitor crops for water level, pH and temperature. Also, because it is a self-contained unit with its own refillable water tank, you can set up in any room of your home.
The availability of fresh, nutritious produce is something we might take for granted, but there is a prospect of food shortages as the global population reaches somenine billion in 2050. Indoor farming is a positive step in securing a reliable food source, with the added benefit that it removes much of the uncertainty and risk from raising crops traditionally and the miles they take to get to your table.