Innovation in AgTech is enabling us to grow more and more varieties of crops sustainably, reflecting the wealth of opportunity that lies in indoor farming. Strawberries, tomatoes and leafy greens can now be grown in glasshouses, polytunnels and vertical farms using a method which promotes a better use of space, minimises water usage, lowers carbon footprint, removes the need for chemical fertilisers, improves biodiversity. . . and oh, it’s also energy efficient.
As we seek a more secure, sustainable food system in the wake of unprecedented disruption to the food supply chain and a growing population, it appears only a matter of time for the practice to be rolled out on a wider scale. While there are considerable start-up costs involved in indoor farming, the return on investment is deemed significant, and with further funding, there is a sense that CEA farming will change the face of food production over the next 5-10 years.
The potential for locally grown, fresh and flavoursome food farmed this way is huge, and it won’t be light years away before we see a diverse range of fruit and vegetables which are currently imported from outside the UK to be grown on our home shores, all year round.
This extends to pumpkins, and it is extremely plausible that the ones we carve out annually for Hallowe’en will soon be the soilless variety. Last winter, one school in New York had its first pumpkin harvest from its hydroponic garden, where students have kept the seeds from their pumpkins so they can grow more with the hydroponic garden for this autumn. The school’s aim is for students to understand the potential of hydroponics and inspire them to go into food production in the future as well as broaden their choices when it comes to food.
In fact, consumers can even take it a step further and grow pumpkins in their own house – embodying the true meaning of “home grown”. One company has seen increased demand for its automated indoor residential gardens, something its co-founder puts down to people being more cautious of where their food is coming from and the increase in food prices, and is deemed “a way to access cheaper and fresher produce all year round.”
The business decided to re-position themselves and their product line to double as furniture owing to more competitors flooding the market. The garden allows for growing leafy greens, flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs year-round for an entire household, including yes, you’ve guessed it, pumpkins.
In general, whether you’re a commercial farmer or DIY indoor grower, growing pumpkins upwards is appealing on multiple fronts, not least that it enables them to spread vertically in the open air which increases ventilation and reduces the risk of disease.
So what could be next to be cultivated indoors, witches’ fingers or even Frankenstein v2.0? In all honesty perhaps not, but with the potential indoor farming promises, never say never!