One of the many reasons I enjoy United Fresh (other than the city of Chicago) is how its sessions and interesting people help the industry move forward. Last June, I had the benefit of attending a forum about controlled environmental agriculture (CEA) that featured Gotham Greens CEO Viraj Puri. Puri, along with other experts in CEA, gave a glimpse of the world of indoor growing.
“Controlled environment agriculture provides an opportunity to use resources more efficiently in a more environmentally sustainable way,” Puri said at the United Fresh Conference in June. “That was the concept when we came up with Gotham Greens. If done right, you can grow 20 to 30 times more than the conventional production.”
Puri also noted – and this was echoed by others I met – that he was pleased to see the increased presence of indoor farms at the conference. Not just at a conference, but especially if you live near an urban area, CEA in its many shapes – hdyropoinics aquaponics, aeroponics, vertical farming, etc. – is grabbing the attention of the mainstream.
Growing more produce in a fraction of the space of traditional farming has great appeal. But most importantly (and not to sound too lofty), I think some appeal could generate from those wanting to learn more.
Most agriculture has been and still resides in rural communities. As mentioned in our publication FARMING, the agriculture business is a lifestyle and resource that is passed down from generations past. Imagine a young person who discovers a business such as Puri’s in their community, or FarmedHere, outside of Chicago, or Freight Farms in Boston.
It’s not traditional in the sense of what we’re used to in growing; however, if there are growing operations like Gotham Greens, this can become the start of a new era – not just indoor versus outdoor – but a new generation of young people who take interest in agriculture.
Puri explains that the success of Gotham Greens is in the strategy of growing locally. In the broader sense, if that can inspire a local kid to learn more about CEA, it’s a win for that student as well as their community.