Energy, water efficient vertical farming: PlantLab

While proponents of conventional and organic farming continue to debate the agricultural methods that can feed a world of six to nine billion people, they have one thing in common: both generally focus on land-based farming. While that seems like a no-brainer, indoor agriculture is as old as the greenhouse… and has become significantly more sexy with the concept of the vertical farm. To date, many of the ideas about growing food and plants in skyscraper-like buildings are just that: concepts.

Dutch research company PlantLab is a step beyond that: they’ve been experimenting with a completely controlled environment for growing food, and found that not only could it help meet growing food demand, but do so with significantly lower energy, chemical, and water inputs.

Lighting is at the core of PlantLab’s indoor farming experiment: the company’s Gertjan Meeuws told the AP that “Sunlight is not only unnecessary but can be harmful” to plant growth. PlantLab researchers expose their plants to light from LED lamps instead, and adjust for the specific wavelengths of light that specific plants need for their growth. When combined with water recycling and other environmental controls, the company claims that its achieved a growth rate of three times the normal greenhouse… with a 90% reduction in water use.

PlantLab plans to build a commercial-scale version of its Plant Production Unit by the end of the year, and envisions a turn-key unit that could be used in almost any environment. Take a look at how it works in the video above.

What do you think? A potential world saver? A new version of factory farming? Let us know…