(15 Aug 2016) LEAD IN: Vertical farming is taking off in the United States with stacks of leafy greens being grown indoors in urban areas. In New Jersey, one company is transforming an old steel mill into a vertical farming plot that it claims will be the world’s biggest. But not everyone is convinced about the environmental benefits. STORY-LINE: Inspecting the latest crop of leafy greens which are sprouting inside an old factory in Newark, New Jersey. But these plants have never seen the sun, let alone been outside. They’re grown in specially constructed stacks – there are seven growing layers with individual lighting and watering systems. David Rosenberg, Co-Founder and CEO of AeroFarms explains the the thinking behind vertical farming. “We want to help alleviate food deserts which is a real problem in the United States and around the world. So here, there are areas of Newark that are underprivileged, there isn’t enough economic development. There aren’t enough supermarkets. We put this farm in one of those areas and we also invite the community to come to our facility and buy directly from us, alleviating a food desert, also selling locally to supermarkets and restaurants so they have access to fresh food.” AeroFarms says the plants use less water than regular farms with zero pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. “We’ve been able to move production to a place that is less water stressed and remember we grow using 95 percent less water,” says Rosenberg. Seeds are sprinkled on a special growing mat and then stacked into place in favourable growing conditions. Seeds usually start growing within 12 to 48 hours. “What we do is we trick it,” says Rosenberg, “we get it thinking that, if plants could think, all right this is a good environment, it’s time to grow now.” […]
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