Perpetual Hyperbole

When was the last time you read a critical article about vertical farming that was written by a vertical farming entrepreneur or equipment supplier? Can't remember? It's a sure sign the industry is not ready for prime time. It's in what we call 'perpetual hyperbole mode'. 

Emerging technology - by definition - has its flaws. A lack of self-critique is a bad sign. 

So where are the flaws in vertical farming / controlled environment agriculture? And who has the courage to call them out? WE DO!

Must We Violate the Laws of Physics to Make it Work?

Must We Violate the Laws of Physics to Make it Work?

I have tremendous respect for Dr. Albright. And his presentation was a watershed event for vertical farming - but probably not for the reasons you might expect. From my perspective, he is "the" expert in traditional CEA (i.e. greenhouses), which makes him the PERFECT person to dissect the problems/challenges of vertical farming. Why? Because greenhouses are the predecessor technology, one that is relatively mature, and also the sector most threatened by and best prepared to compete with vertical farming. Think of Albright as the CEO of GM critiquing Tesla. Albright is professionally 'invested' in greenhouse technology and bristles at hyperbole of vertical farming advocates who are 'loose' on the science. And serious vertical practitioners should listen! He's doing us all an enormous service. He's pointing us to the flaws in vertical farming that must be solved to improve upon greenhouse technology. Thank you, thank you, thank you Dr. Albright.

The Seven Elements of Transformational Agriculture Innovation

The Seven Elements of Transformational Agriculture Innovation

Innovation is often romanticized as a sudden flash of inspiration, a once in a lifetime 'ah-ha' moment, or a capacity possessed only by those who are in the genius category (think Steve Jobs). Spontaneous innovation may occur, but not for me, or anyone I know who is honest about how they innovate. And as much as we all admire Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, or even Einstein, it's a myth that they conjured up their innovations in a vacuum without the influence, input or original ideas from others. 

Are Light Recipes Like Junk Food for Plants?

A 'light recipe' is a term used to describe alterations of the spectrum of grow lights to improve plant photosynthesis. In particular, a spectrum limited to blue and red light (pink light), will achieve an equal or greater growth when compared to a natural light that includes green, amber and far red light. If the grower's goal is one-dimensional (i.e. the most plant matter for the cost) then this makes sense. But if a grower is also concerned about quality, it's a different story. 

Light Recipes Expanded

Our first definition of Light Recipes was much too narrow. By definition, Light Recipes must have many variations. So we propose expanding the definition of Light Recipes by adding adjectives to give them more depth, more context, and more meaning. We could have a 'complete' light recipe, a 'balanced' light recipe, an 'inflorescence' light recipe, or even a light recipe that perfectly mimicked the changing light spectrum and light fluence of a 24-hour, 365-day light 'environment in the Napa Valley of California.

Light Recipes and the Willing Sense of Disbelief

Light Recipes are an unnatural blend of photosynthetically active radiation frequently recommended for horticulture lighting applications for economic reasons rather than biological reasons. 

Most of our readers - including plant scientists at leading light manufacturers and university research programs that I have spoken to - agree with the statement above. The topic is mostly settled. This article is about the practice of recommending light recipes (typically 'pink light') as the preferred spectrum for growing indoors, and the compromises that result, because the grower accepts them. I refer to the latter as a 'willing suspension of disbelief' - a term familiar to any student of theatre arts.