Robotic indoor farms can grow food anywhere, anytime | Robotics

Robots could turn a basic concept of farming on its head. What if, instead of growing crops in rows spread across many acres of land, could be grown in vertical columns? A Cincinnati-based firm called 80 Acres is testing this concept and seeking to prove that automated indoor farming can be safer and more profitable than traditional methods.

Indoor farming controls environmental factors so that crops such as lettuce can be grown anywhere, anytime, making fresh available year-round, regardless of location. A traditional farm might have three seasons, but Hamilton's new indoor farm is expected to turn over leafy greens every three weeks. This perpetual growing requires constant labor, but robots are doing the heavy lifting so that the farmers can focus on plant health and nutrition.

We spoke with Rebecca Haders, VP of Creative & Marketing at 80 Acres Farms, to learn more about automated indoor farming.  “Sensors are used for controlling watering and light schedules, humidity, air temperature, root zone temperature, CO2. Vision systems are used to collect data on plant health.” She added, “ are enabling efficiencies in worker productivity, farmer safety, and food safety.”

Growing plants vertically saves space so that farms don't require massive amounts of land. This could help bring farms into urban areas, which means fresher and more nutritious food for city dwellers.

Haders explained, “A study published in Food Chemistry (Oct 2017) found mature spinach lost about 80 percent of its vitamin C after three days of storage, while baby spinach lost 25 to 45 percent. In another study, in the Journal of Food Science (May 2006), packaged spinach lost nearly half its folate, one of the B vitamins, after eight days of refrigeration.”

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