Last month at Indoor Ag-Con I sat in on a conversation between Nicola Kerslake from Contain, Inc. and Dr. Gene Giacomelli from University of Arizona's Controlled Environment Agriculture Center. They were on a panel together. They discussed a lot of topics and fielded questions from the audience. One of the audience questions asked the two speakers to compare greenhouse growing to indoor growing. Indoor was defined as without any natural light.
There answers to these questions shed some light one why indoor agriculture is growing in size. Why money is flowing into these sectors and why consumers like the final products.
Dr. Giacomelli answered first. He explained that indoor systems are more predictable than greenhouses. Since all of the light is artificial all of the photoperiods are the same. Plus with artificial lights, you can use only the wavelengths that plants grow well in. Research has shown that red and blue lights are important for plant growth. Other wavelengths will benefit the plant but not provide the same results.
Finally, he added that indoor farms require less land space. In areas where land is expensive, this might make them more affordable. If the farm is stacking the plants they also get a higher area to grow in than a traditional greenhouse provides.
Nicola's answers were similar but varied a little. She comes at the question with a financial background. Contain, Inc. offers financing for people looking to start or grow their indoor farm. She felt that indoor agriculture is ideal for new growers. These farmers can put $10-15,000 down and start growing in a container farm. Indoor agriculture also works well in super hot climates, whereas a greenhouse would have to be cooled.
I had not thought about many of these answers. Indoor agriculture requires a lot of capital investment, but so does greenhouse and field agriculture. The control over the system is great, but inexperienced growers are starting to learn that proper education is still required to be a successful grower.
If you are looking at starting an indoor farm, hopefully, this information will help you frame your operation.