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Indoor Ag Excites Space-wonks

When I say indoor agriculture, you problem think about farming and plants. Maybe you zone out, unless you are a foodie. What's amazing about indoor agriculture is that it has sparked interest from the agriculture community as well as the space and energy communities.

Foodies are excited at the prospect of having lettuce grown just a few miles away from you and delivered fresh once a week. Instead of it being cut, packaged and transported across the country before it gets to your dinner plate.

U.S. Department of Agriculture is interested because local food production centers increase the food security. After hurricane Sandy, NYC-based vertical and indoor farms were the only places to get fresh veggies after the hurricane. It took a few days before normal traffic resumed and delivers were made. The USDA also likes the food safety aspects of indoor farming. These systems are controlled, and with the right bio-safety protocols could greatly reduce the risk of food borne diseases.

NASA's research is centered around getting to Mars. Fully automated farms will have to be set up on Mars before humans can visit. Food would have to be growing before arrival in order to feed humans, NASA can't pack enough food for the trip. Growing food in a controlled environment is critical, since our food won't grow in the ambient Mars environment.

Finally, the Department of Energy is interested in these systems. Researchers within the Department want to know can these farms reduce land use and save carbon? Right now, these systems use less water, less land, and no pesticides, but the energy costs are still high. Lighting and cooling are expensive. Is it possible to make carbon neutral facilities? That takes farm sustainability to the next level.

We've moved away from an agrarian-based society, but with indoor agriculture more people are getting involved. The reasons vary from space exploration to carbon neutral living, but each of these groups is looking to advance indoor agriculture and local consumers and the planet might be the big winners.

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