This Is Why Growing Food Inside Is Going Mainstream
What if I told you that the idea of “growing seasons” is obsolete — that it’s possible to grow any crop at any time of year, regardless of climate or weather?
Would you believe that you could enjoy vine-ripened tomatoes in the icy Arctic tundra, or tender greens in the torrid Arizona desert?
It’s not a farfetched, futuristic concept. What I’m describing is happening now with aeroponics — an advanced form of hydroponics that allows you to grow food indoors.
4 Incredible Indoor Gardens and Farms
A great deal of hype surrounds the urban farming industry. But the following examples prove that growing indoors is a real, viable opportunity.
1. Chicago O’Hare International Airport
Since 2011, millions of travelers have passed by the O’Hare Urban Garden in Chicago. And — as the first airport-based aeroponic farm in the world — the 26-tower operation has no doubt turned a few heads.
Besides providing a tranquil, green space for you to relax during your next layover, the indoor farm at O’Hare delivers hyper-local, ultra-fresh ingredients to restaurants in the airport daily.
And by growing vertically, the farm is able to simultaneously produce more than 1,100 different plants — including peppers, greens, and herbs — in only 928 sq. ft.
Credit: Karin Nicole
Like something out of a sci-fi flick, Microsoft’s indoor Tower Gardens thrive inside LED-lit, transparent enclosures.
And when I say, “thrive,” I mean it. With a planting-to-harvest cycle of just 28 days, the company’s 55 towers yield nearly 15,000 lbs. of produce annually, according to FESmag.com. (On-campus restaurants incorporate this beautiful bounty into signature dishes.)
As you might expect from a tech company, Microsoft uses sophisticated software to monitor and tweak growing system temperature, pH, humidity, electricity, lighting, and other variables.
Credit: Green Bronx Machine
3. National Health, Wellness & Learning Center at CS 55
An indoor garden is probably one of the last things you’d expect to see inside a 100+ year-old school library… especially in the South Bronx. But thanks to educator Stephen Ritz and the Green Bronx Machine, that’s exactly what you’ll find at community school 55.
The National Health, Wellness & Learning Center combines classroom gardening with common core curriculum to teach students about healthy living — as well as science, math, and other subjects. Thus, in the food desert that is the Bronx, kids learn not only how to grow plants, but also how to cook and eat them.
The center is changing lives. And it’s just one (inspiring) example among thousands — because Tower Garden is taking root in schools all over the United States.
Credit: Urban Smart Farms
4. Orange County Convention Center
When was the last time you had a good, fresh meal at a conference?
It’s true — convention centers aren’t famous for top-tier cuisine. But with Center-to-Table Gardens, the Orange County Convention Center aims to change that. Just-harvested fruits, vegetables, and herbs from the farm’s 81 towers feed conventioneers every day.
Fun fact: Occupying about 2,000 sq. ft., this 81-tower operation is the largest indoor urban vertical farm in a venue in the U.S., as reported by the Orlando Sentinel.
The opportunity to grow food indoors isn’t limited to larger organizations like those featured above. Anyone can start an indoor garden, right at home.
It may seem a little intimidating at first. After all, there are many factors to consider. But if you follow these three steps, it’s actually pretty simple.
1. Start with the right system
Odds are your living room can’t accommodate an acre of row crops. But what if you grow up with Tower Garden?
As the ultimate indoor gardening machine, it will help you:
- Grow food (almost) anywhere with a vertical design that fits 10x more plants than horizontally oriented systems, allowing you to produce up to 20 crops in less than three square feet
- Enjoy an easier gardening experience by eliminating soil (and related pains, such as digging and weeding), automating feeding, watering, and other key tasks, and reducing the risk of pests
- Support a more eco-friendly future by saving up to 98 percent more water (while producing as much as 30 percent greater yields, three times faster) than conventional growing methods and reducing the carbon footprint — and costs — of food transportation
- Produce any crop year-round, regardless of the weather outside, with artificial lighting and full control over your indoor climate
With advantages like these, the Tower Garden growing system is essentially engineered for indoor growing.
2. Pick proper plants
Some plants are better candidates for indoor gardens than others. If you’re using fluorescent lighting, leafy greens and herbs (such as those listed here) usually grow best.
But if you’re willing to invest in LED or HID systems — and have more space to spare — it is possible to grow tomatoes, peppers, and other fruiting crops indoors.
3. Provide the best growing environment
As with any type of garden, indoor growing systems perform best when certain conditions are met.
First, you’ll want to start your crops from seed inside — this helps prevent pests that may infest seedlings grown outdoors. And to keep your growing environment free of fungi and disease, you should prune regularly to improve airflow.
Finally, it’s wise to check on your plants periodically and provide any necessary care, such as hand-pollination for fruiting crops.
For more tips, you can find an indoor garden maintenance checklist here.
Ready to reap the rewards of indoor gardening?
Over to You
Are you already involved in indoor gardening? Or have you heard of an interesting use of indoor growing technology?
Please share your experience in the comments below!
Cover photo credit: Green Bronx Machine
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