The world’s largest indoor farm, in Japan, covers 25,000 square feet, with 15 tiers of stacked growing trays that produce 10,000 heads of lettuce per day, or about 100 times more per square foot than traditional methods. It uses 99 percent less water and 40 percent less power than outdoor fields, while producing 80 percent less food waste.
Customized LED lighting helps plants grow up to two-and-a-half times faster than normal, one of the many innovations co-developed by Shigeharu Shimamura. He says the overall process is only half automated so far. “Machines do some work, but the picking is done manually. In the future, though, I expect an emergence of harvesting robots.” These may help transplant seedlings, harvest produce or transport product to packaging areas.
Meanwhile, Singapore’s Sky Farms, the world’s first low-carbon, hydraulically driven, urban vertical farm, runs on a Sky Urban Vertical Farming System, making the most of rainwater and gravity. Using a water pulley system, 38 growing troughs rotate around a 30-foot-tall aluminum tower.
A much bigger project, a 69,000-square-foot vertical indoor garden under construction at AeroFarms headquarters, in Newark, New Jersey, will be capable of producing up to 2 million pounds of vegetables and herbs annually.