Sunless Farming of the Future


Photo: Peter Dejong

If we were to prevent a Malthusian catastrophe, we'd better figure out a way to boost crop yield to keep feeding the planet's growing population. Gertjan Meeuws and other bioengineers of PlantLab have found an answer: a greenhouse where every aspect of the growing condition is controlled, where climate (or even the Sun) is not a factor at all.

In their research station, strawberries, yellow peppers, basil and banana plants take on an eerie pink glow under red and blue bulbs of Light-Emitting Diodes, or LEDs. Water trickles into the pans when needed and all excess is recycled, and the temperature is kept constant. Lights go on and off, simulating day and night, but according to the rhythm of the plant — which may be better at shorter cycles than 24 hours — rather than the rotation of the Earth. [...]

Sunlight is not only unnecessary but can be harmful, says Meeuws. Plants need only specific wavelengths of light to grow, but in nature they must adapt to the full range of light as a matter of survival. When light and other natural elements are manipulated, the plants become more efficient, using less energy to grow.

"Nature is good, but too much nature is killing," said Meeuws, standing in a steaming cubicle amid racks of what he called "happy plants."

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Uh hu.

Sure.

Or, you know, we could just tackle the population problem.

But that is a volatile subject no one wants to touch.

The more food you make the more people will be born. Famine or prevention are the only options.
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That may be a part of the final concept, Mr. Awesome. Taking the broad spectrum of light and filtering what is needed for plants and using the excess to power. Or hell, Solar Energy, Bloom Box, and lots of poop for a home methane plant. Energy to keep lights going to grow the plants. Plants to eat to make poop. Poop to create methane and fertilizer for plants. Methane and Bloom box.... You see the cycle by now. Not that effective yet, but baby steps.
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