Known for growing herbs and lettuce indoors, vertical farmers have made a breakthrough in the quest for global food security: growing wheat in the same controlled environment.
Amsterdam-based startup Infarm grew wheat without the use of soil or chemical pesticides and with far less water than conventional farming. The first indoor farming company to grow a staple is a milestone for a burgeoning industry that has attracted venture capital funding with the promise that its technology can help feed the planet.
“To continue to feed the growing world population, we need to achieve higher crop yields, which we have now proven possible for wheat,” said Guy Galonska, Infarm’s chief technology officer and co-founder. “We are confident that wheat can be successfully grown indoors on a large scale as a climate-resilient alternative.”
To date, indoor farmers have supplied premium foods such as herbs, salads and the occasional fruit. They were also faced with questions about their relatively high production costs, energy consumption and scalability.
When delivered at scale, growing a staple indoors has the potential to change the game. Supply has been increasingly challenged by climate change and logistical problems, with the war in Ukraine highlighting the world’s dependence on a few breadbaskets.
Infarm said its initial trials show projected annual wheat yields of 117 tons per hectare. This compares to average yields in 2022 of 5.6 tons per hectare in the European Union and 3.1 tons in the US, which the US Department of Agriculture estimates is among the top exporters in the world.
But the challenges of achieving scale and keeping costs down remain enormous.
Wheat cultivation takes up more than 216 million hectares of land, more than any other crop. Meeting current needs at Infarm’s projected yields would require indoor farms that exceed the wheat acreage in France.
Infarm, which is co-hosting a food systems pavilion at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh this month, said it could potentially increase its yield by another 50 percent in the coming years thanks to better technology.
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/tillage/wheat-grown-indoors-in-breakthrough-for-vertical-farming-42133346.html Indoor-grown wheat as a breakthrough for vertical farming