Friday, April 22

Future farm: a sunless, Rainless space inside?

DEN BOSCH, Netherlands - agriculture indoors, moves where the sun never seems, where rainfall is irrelevant and where the climate is always right.

The perfect crop field could be in a windowless building with carefully controlled light, temperature, humidity, air quality, and nutrition. It could in a New York skyscraper, a Siberian bunker or a sprawling complex in the Saudi desert.

Proponents say that this, or something like that, a response to the problems of the world can be food.

"To keep a planet, the worth of life, we need to change our methods," says Gertjan Meeuws, the PlantLab, a private research company.

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The world is already feeding problems. Half the people on Earth live in cities, and almost half of those - approximately 3 billion - are hungry or malnourished. Food prices, currently in the height fast are shaken by droughts, floods and the costs required for energy plants, fertilize, harvest and transport.

And prices only unstable. Climate change makes uncertain harvest long-term planning. Farmers in many parts of the world are already drained the last drop of available water resources. And the world is becoming more and more crowded: by the middle of the century, the world's population grows from 6.8 billion to 9 billion, the United Nations predicts.

Farmland on the costs of the forests and wilderness, or the search for ways to increase the crop yields to feed so many people require expand radically.

Meeuws and three other Dutch Bioengineers have taken a step the concept of a greenhouse further, growing vegetables, herbs and houseplants in closed and regulated environments where even natural light is excluded.

Take Basil and banana plants on an eerie pink glow in red and blue light-emitting diodes or LED lamps in their research station, yellow peppers and strawberries. Reuses all excess water trickles into the pans if necessary and the temperature is kept constant. Light simulation of day and night, but which go up and down, in the rhythm of the plant - may be better to cycles shorter than 24 hours - instead of the rotation of the Earth.

In a larger "underwent" a few miles away, a kindergarten is care cuttings of Fittonia, a colourful House plant, in two layers of 70 square meters (750 sqft) each. Blasts of crap, keep the room damp and is the temperature much like the plants native South America. After the cuttings take root - the most sensitive phase of growth process - they are wheeled in a greenhouse and the Chamber will back to the root. The process of 12 or more grow cuts the time required, a mature plant to six weeks.

Dutch researchers say that they plan to create a commercial size building in the Netherlands of 1,300 square meters (14,000 size sq. feet), with four separate vegetation until the end of this year. After that, they see growing vegetables to shopping centres, supermarkets or other food stores.

Meeuws says that a building of 100 square meters (1.075 sqft) and 14 layers of plants 200 g (7 oz) could provide a daily diet of fresh fruit and vegetables for the entire population of Den Bosch, some 140,000 people. The idea is not to grow food that require much space, such as corn or potatoes. "We are looking at the top of the pyramid where we have high-quality and low volume," he said.

Sunlight is not only unnecessary but can be harmful, Meeuws said. Plants, need only certain wavelengths of light to grow, but in nature they need their the entire spectrum of light as a matter of survival. If light and other natural elements are processed, the plants are more efficient using less energy to grow.

"Nature is good, but too much nature kills," Meeuws said he at a steaming cubicle surrounded by racks of the so-called "happy plants."

For more than a decade the four researchers have been tinkering with combinations of light, soil and temperature on a variety of plants, and now say their growth rate is three times faster than under greenhouse conditions. Use no pesticides and about 90 percent of less water than in the free agriculture. While LED bulbs are expensive, the cost is constantly falling.

OLAF van Kooten, Professor of horticulture has seen the project University of Wageningen, but has no involvement in it, says that a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of tomatoes in Israeli fields grown needs 60 liters (16 gallons) water, while those grown require a quarter of in a Dutch greenhouse. "With this system it is possible in principle to produce a kilo of tomatoes with a little more than a liter water," he said.

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The idea of multiple sections of greenhouses have been around for a while. Dickson Despommier, Columbia University Professor of environment and health, and author of the book "The vertical farm," 2010 to work on indoor agriculture as a classroom project in 1999, and the idea has spread across the U.S. on multiple startup projects

Despommier "In the last five years urban farming really traction has won," said in a telephone interview.

Despommier argues this city agriculture means food in the vicinity of consumers, accounts for the transport that long it at great cost for fuel and mercy and with little dependence on the immediate climate distances.

The science behind the LED lighting in which agriculture said "quite strict and is known," he, and the cost drastically fall. The development of the next, organic light-emitting diodes or OLEDs, which packed on thin film and are wrapped around a plant needs will be coordinated more efficiently on your.

One of the dramatic applications of plant growing Chambers under LED was lights of NASA, which installs it to me in the space shuttle and the space station in the 1990s as part of his experiments with microgravity.

"This system is initially clear, growing", says van Kooten, but more research is needed, and people need to get to the idea of the sunless, landless farming.

"But it is me clearly, a system as is necessary."

Copyright 2011, the associated press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

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