CEA: A Solution to Traditional Agricultural Problems
This post was written by guest contributor Alex Omelchenko
CEA, which stands for Controlled Environment Agriculture, refers to the concept of indoor farming, and encompasses a variety of innovative agricultural methods in an attempt to circumvent the disadvantages faced by conventional farming methods.
Ultimately, these indoor farming methods are adaptable and can be used by anyone almost anywhere, which means they are accessible in ways that traditional agriculture is not, particularly in many highly populated urban areas.
The Problem with Traditional Farming Methods
To fully understand why CEA has been such a welcome solution, you first need to grasp the obstacles faced in traditional agriculture. Besides being inaccessible to the greater public, it poses a risk to the environment due to urbanization, deforestation, lack of space, and water shortages around the world.
You often find with traditional agriculture that systems are not set up to ideally distribute; most of the water used does not get absorbed by crops but evaporates. Many conventional farms have tried to adapt and find ways around this, yet these measures are often ineffective and difficult to regulate. Inadequate irrigation is a major drain on local environmental resources, and there is not enough initiative to recycle resources, such as implementing measures to recapture wasted water. This is particularly poignant in times of drought when productivity all but halts–an issue which Controlled Environment Agriculture addresses.
It is vital that the health of soil systems is maintained to optimise water usage and crop yield. Traditional farming tends to leech the land of its nutrition over time resulting in soil that is undernourished and eroded. Self-contained farming systems do not have negative impacts like this on the environment.
VARIABLES THAT CAN'T BE CONTROLLED
A major factor, when it comes to conventional farming, is crop exposure to the elements. Crops are heavily affected by things like sunlight, rain, and wind, and there is only so much that farmers can do to control the impact of these elements. Such variables also impact the amount of irrigation that is needed and can weigh heavily on water resources during dry seasons.
Controlled Environment Agriculture To the Rescue
Looking at the bigger picture, it is clear that there are major obstacles to overcome. While conventional farming “usually alters the natural environment, deteriorates soil quality, and eliminates biodiversity” (stonybrook.edu), CEA addresses these challenges in a variety of innovative ways making urban farming accessible to the public in ways never seen before. It introduces some major environmental advantages, including big savings in terms of water usage.
A major component of most CEA systems is hydroponic farming, or some variation thereof, which simply refers to the method whereby water and nutrients are transmitted in a highly efficient manner to plant roots, all without soil in a nearly closed system.
CEA YIELDS MORE PRODUCTIVITY
Thanks to a CEA innovation known as vertical farming, farmers are able to produce as much as 100 times more food per square foot than is possible via conventional methods. Vertical farming has made it possible to grow produce in smaller areas, even in urban rooftops or basements.
CEA also mitigates factors that could severely hamper productivity, such as pest infestation, dry weather seasons, air and soil pollution, and other elements that indoor setups don’t have to worry about.
CEA IS SUSTAINABLE
While conventional farming is by no means going away, it is evident that in order for future generations to survive as the populations continue to grow, it is vital that we pave the way for a more sustainable way we grow, purchase and consume the food we eat. This is where CEA proves to be the most efficient option for our future, when it comes to a more sustainable use of space and water consumption.
PRODUCE IS GROWN YEAR ROUND
When certain seasonal produce is ‘out of season,’ the demand outweighs the supply, pushing prices up. While there are ways to cheat the natural growth cycles of fruits and veggies through methods such as genetic engineering and cold storage, many consumers are avoiding these retailers in favor of a sustainable lifestyle. Thanks to CEA methods like advanced lighting and irrigation, growers can simulate the optimal seasons for growth, without having a negative impact on the local natural environment and ecosystem.
To Sum Up
When it comes to the food supply chain, consumers are not only becoming more conscious of what they consume and how it affects them, they are also becoming increasingly aware of how their buying behavior impacts the environment. This is why traditional agricultural methods are under scrutiny and urgently need to be disrupted. In the move toward sustainable living, CEA has the potential to play a massive role in supplying communities with more food at lower costs, as well as in reducing water wastage and limiting the negative impact that agriculture has on the environment.
About the Author: Alex Omelchenko works at Apex Window Werks, a home window repair and replacement company based in Chicago, Illinois. The company deals with everything related to wood, windows and doors, including custom glass cutting, window defogging and window frame replacement.