This Farm of the Future Uses No Soil and 95% Less Water


NARRATOR: You can’t
see it on the outside, but this old
industrial neighborhood is an agricultural oasis. Inside this former
laser tag arena, about 250 kinds of leafy greens
are growing in huge quantities, to be sold to local
supermarkets and restaurants. This is AeroFarms, a massive
indoor vertical farm in Newark, New Jersey. DAVID ROSENBERG: Our mission
is to build farms in cities all over the world
so people have access to fresh, great tasting,
highly nutritious food. NARRATOR: Crops are stacked
more than 30 feet high inside this 30,000
square foot space. They’re grown using
aeroponic technology. DAVID ROSENBERG: Typically
in indoor growing, the roots sit in water and one
tries to oxygenate the water. Our key inventor realized
that if we mist nutrition to the root structure,
then the roots have a better oxygenation. NARRATOR: AeroFarms
says the root misting system allows them to use 95%
less water than a regular field farm. They also use no
pesticides or herbicides. Instead of soil, plants are
grown in reusable cloth, made from recycled plastic. And instead of the sun,
there are rows and rows of specialized LED lighting. DAVID ROSENBERG: A lot
of people say, sunless? Wait, plants need sun. In fact, the plants don’t
need yellow spectrum, so we’re able to
reduce our energy footprint by doing
things like reducing certain types of spectrum. NARRATOR: This
sophisticated climate controlled system cuts
the growing cycle in half, so crops can be
grown all year round, but with a much smaller
impact on the environment. DAVID ROSENBERG: There’s all
these stresses on our planet. 70% of our fresh
water contamination comes from agriculture. 70% of our fresh water
usage goes to agriculture. One third of our
arable land has been degraded in the last 40 years. All these macro trends
point to the fact that we need a new way
to feed our planet. NARRATOR: One of the early
champions of vertical farming is Columbia University
ecologist Dickson Despommier. In 1999, Despommier
and his students proposed that vertical farms
could feed overpopulated cities while using less
land and less water. They would also cut
greenhouse gases by eliminating the
need to transport food over long distances. And the idea is
finally taking root. Over the past few
years, vertical farms have sprouted all
over the world, including in Vancouver,
Singapore, Panama, the UK, and around the US. Here in Newark, AeroFarms is
building out another new farm in a former steel
mill, one that’s bigger than a football field. Once it’s fully
operational, it’s expected to produce two
million pounds of greens a year– all grown vertically. DAVID ROSENBERG: We
listen to the plants very carefully to
try and understand what they’re telling
us and try and optimize all these different
qualities of the plant. It’s a tough business, but
it’s one that’s going to stay and it’s going to have a
bigger and bigger impact. NARRATOR: Do you think vertical
farms will help solve our food production problems? Let us know in the
comments below. And check out this
next episode to see how this major US city is
striving to become zero waste. ROBERT REED: When I started
at Recology 23 years ago, the recycling rate
was around 38%. Today, we’ve more
than doubled that. NARRATOR: So far, San Francisco
has diverted 80% of its waste away from landfills,
and its success has been getting global attention. Thanks for watching and be sure
to subscribe for more Seeker Stories.