Controlled Environment Agriculture
Controlled environment agriculture is largely driven by resource scarcity and changing climatic conditions putting increased stress on conventional farming practices. Controlled environment agriculture involves increase control over various variables which optimises the plant growing conditions, resulting in higher plant quality and larger production volume while ensuring resource efficiency. The controllable variables for plants may include:
- Carbon dioxide
- Nutrient concentration
Controlled environment agriculture range from simpler netting cover to fully automated technology. Controlled environment agriculture has been evident in rural as well as urban spaces. Expansion in urban spaces have been evident internationally with erection of new structures on open spaces and roof tops as well as the transformation of existing factory spaces and other brownfield sites.
Benefits of controlled environment agriculture include; reduction in water use, reduction in pesticide and fertiliser use, reduction in water loss through recycling, high quality produce, year-round production of seasonal produce, higher production volume compared to conventional farming on the same size land.
Various forms of controlled environment agriculture are listed below:
- Netting cover: Netting density and colour is dependent on commodity and specific use.
- Tunnels: Usually more complex structure than netting cover and more permanent. Includes a frame with more durable cover.
- Hydroponics: Is a way of growing plants using nutrient rich water, without soil. Plants are grown with their roots directly in water or in an growth medium.
- Aquaculture: Production of aquatic organisms such as fish and molluscs. These may include freshwater or marine organisms. Infrastructure options include earth ponds, cages and recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS). Also see freshwater aquaculture.
- Aquaponics: Is a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture. Water is recirculated and nutrients from aquatic organisms are used for plant growth.