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Vertical Farming

Vertical farming seems to be gaining traction globally and have major advantages to traditional farming. Los Angeles based Local Roots’ three farms demonstrate the extraordinary advantages.  They are no ordinary farms. They’re not even outside — but inside three small shipping containers.

The startup uses vertical hydroponic farming, a method where plants grow year-round with LEDs rather than natural sunlight.  Instead of soil, the seeds lie on trays with nutrient-rich water, stacked from the floor to the ceilings inside the shipping containers. The containers live inside Local Roots’ warehouse in California.

Local Roots’ farms save both land and water.  Each 320-square-foot shipping container produces the same amount of plants as four acres of traditional farmland, this is the same  amount of produce in 1/400th of the space. It also uses 97% less water on average and no pesticides.
The farms’ trays also constantly track the vegetables growing parameters in real-time, like temperature and levels of oxygen and CO2. The startup then uses machine learning to analyze that data and improve the growing process. 

For example, compared to the average growth cycle of lettuce that requires harvesting, storing, and transportation, Local Roots’ process use about 45% less energy than traditional farming.

The downside is that like most vertical farms, it uses a significant amount of electricity to power its LEDs. Local Roots’ farms consume 205 kWh of power per day, which is nearly seven times the daily energy consumption of the average American household. It is currently exploring options like solar power that are more carbon-neutral than the traditional power grid. 

Local Roots grows 50,000 pounds of butterhead lettuce and 15,000 pounds of baby kale and spring mix per year. For now, the greens are only available at select fast-casual restaurants and markets in LA.

Posted on January 4, 2017

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