What is Controlled Environment Agriculture?
Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) has been prevalent throughout 2019 and for a good reason too. This new and innovative way of growing edibles is raising many eyebrows, with the ability to grow food in urban areas and reduce food miles being only a few of the benefits.
So, what is controlled environment agriculture? For a start, you don’t need a tractor, acres of land or a sheepdog. Controlled Environment Agriculture is a term used to describe the indoor cultivation of plants, using technology to create optimum growing conditions. It is also a way of growing crops all year round, without having to rely on the weather forecast.
One of the many questions regarding this futuristic way of growing our five-a-day is why has it become so popular in recent years? Besides from the obvious reasons of being able to control most aspects of the crop’s environment as opposed to traditional methods, there are many reasons why people are turning to Controlled Environment Agriculture.
Labour shortages in the horticulture and agriculture sector are on the rise, with more young people opting for secondary and higher education over apprenticeships. It is also thought that longer hours and irregular working days are discouraging people from choosing a career in agriculture.
Climate change is also having an effect on farmer’s ability to grow successful crops. The devastating floods which hit the north of England in November will have had a detrimental effect on the land and consequently, will harm success of crops for some time. Speaking to The Telegraph, farmer Henry Ward from Lincoln admits that he doesn’t think he will be able to grow crops on his flooded land for at least 12 months, which will have a detrimental effect on finances.
As it is becoming increasingly difficult to satisfy the ever-growing need for sustainable food, CEA seems to be answering the problem. In light of this, the UK supermarkets seem to be getting on board with the concept, as Marks and Spencer have begun to introduce urban farming to their London stores, offering basil, parsley, mint and coriander.
So, in a nutshell, what are the benefits of controlled environment agriculture?
Improved nutrition and taste
By controlling the crop’s environment, it is easier to ensure that the crop will be of high value and quality.
Crops can be grown all year round
There is no waiting for spring, no need to worry about bad weather conditions or soil health. Within a controlled environment, crops can be grown all year round and therefore being able to keep up with the demand.
Here in Wales, we are blessed with space and rolling hills. Whilst beautiful, the hillier areas present challenges due to climate and soil quality. However, in more urban areas space is a luxury. Whether it be a warehouse, a garden shed, a high rise building or even your office, controlled environment agriculture can take place almost anywhere. As a result of this, food miles can be reduced. In the words of Greta Thunberg, you are never too small to make a difference.
Efficient use of resources
By knowing exactly what the plants need to grow to their full potential, less waste is produced in terms of water and fertiliser.
If this is your area of interest and you would like to be a member of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Special Interest Group, get in touch with us.