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So the “flaw” I am seeing here is literally the capitalist part of it all. In some situations it may be the culture of “start-ups” where much more attention is paid to effectively “fake it till you make it”. And not being very firmly and honest about it being a very very long-term investment.
While I am not sure about places outside the US with regards to privately and publicly traded companies. The US legally requires that profits being paid to shareholders is the only thing that matters. So even if the real goal is to actually save lives by feeding people. If the shareholders’ greed for ever growing (and unsustainable) profits leads to gutting everything that basically isn’t hype grifter shit. Even though you need lots of workers to build and literally run the things. The company will self-injure in order to make the spreadsheets show even slightly higher numbers for money.
Cost of energy is more or less fake. In that the cabals of energy and fossil fuel producers literally choose to fuck with it. Like how OPEC will just choose to reduce production due to feeling prices are just too cheap and leads to the working and poor classes to suffer (while paying said companies for the privilege).
We need to put people far above profits. We need to be able to be able to come up with ideas and test and test and test, while knowing and accepting that failures are not to be hidden away. But the monetary profit motives keeps the cycles of grifting, greed, and oppression happening. All of the pros and cons should be used to help see what can or can’t currently be done to advance. Those that wish to taint this by feeding their capitalist greed for monetary gains at expense of our lives should be striped of everything and purged. Either just from being allowed to participate or from living anymore. If the first fails, then obviously the other must be done.
Really? People didn’t see that the flaws would be where to get energy, where to get nutrients, and where to get water? This is literally the problem with growing any plant anywhere. At least outdoors you can count some or all of them being provided - weather, you like it or not.
Except direct energy input into photosynthesis is only one part of the equation with farming. Yes, if you had a certain land area, you can only do so much photosynthesis with the sun. “Coincidentally,” that’s about equal to a single layer of plants on that land area, not that groundbreaking of a conclusion. Then again, open field farming does not come even close to the maximum density of plants that can be energized by the sun. Think about how barren a farm field looks compared to a thick rainforest. Most of the sun’s energy is still hitting the dirt of the farmland, not the plants. So, if you put solar panels on the roof of a vertical farm, even with the losses in energy conversion, you can probably power grow lights for at least several layers of a vertical farm, so it’s not like all the energy needs to be piped in.
But also, consider the other factors in growing large amounts of plant biomass. Fertilizer is one: using chemical fertilizer in an unconfined open field is really bad because it can and will run off and contaminate the ecosystem. Leading to oversaturation of nutrients in the surrounding soil and especially rivers, streams and lakes, causing uncontrolled microbe growth and quite likely collapsing the ecosystem. This happens all the time. Not to mention, nutrients that run off are wasted. So using said fertilizer in a confined system where it can’t easily escape is much better for the environment and much more efficient. Same with pesticides (actually, if you contain your vertical farm well, you really shouldn’t need to use much pesticides or at all), as well as GMO crops, where the biggest concern with them is those genes spreading into the ecosystem.
Second, consider land use change. Conventional farming is the single largest contributor to deforestation, which is one of the major contributors to climate change. So, if you reduce the land area required to grow your crops, yes you get less energy from sunlight to help you along, but get this, that sunlight can then be used to recover forests, which, you know, is important on an existential level.
Finally, a huge amount of energy use associated with farming goes into moving stuff. Moving in fertilizer, water, etc, moving out the grown crops, moving around giant machines to tend to the fields, moving workers as they commute, etc. So if we can increase the density of farming and can move it closer to or even inside of population centers where the food needs to be distributed, it will go a long way toward reducing the energy use for the non-photosynthesis parts.
Energy may be an Achilles Heel for vertical farming, but just like how Achilles was still a powerful warrior despite his heel, vertical farming has many more benefits beyond this one drawback. It’s not like we can only get clean energy from solar. Wind, hydro, geothermal, hell even nuclear. We will have enough clean energy for vertical farming if we play our cards right. As @email@example.com mentions, obviously in an energy crisis this energy requirement isn’t ideal, but do we plan on being in energy crisis forever? I hope not.
The idea of a functional closed system in this sense is flawed. Over fertilization, synthetic fertilization, and misuse of water are problems in conventional farming because people don’t care enough, we subsidize synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and don’t regulate water usage correctly. Do you think that will be different for people who have enough to spend on a new 500 hectare farm building? Efficient use of nutrients through building soil and water via the same plus mindful irrigation are possible on large scales. People will say that vertical farming won’t lose water or nutrients because those are valuable resources, but how is that different from traditional ag.
Verical farming is only efficient if you want to buy growing space with energy. In every other way it is the next phase of factory farms. You still have to move stuff and the idea that this will be local to everyone instead of plopping huge factories in areas where energy is cheap to take advantage of scale is wishful thinking. Land will be converted, giant machines will be used, and international supply chains will be set up. Also building materials will be mined, manufactured, shipped around the world, and put in place, and when we’re done with the building it will go to land fill when a new building is put in it’s place. Farm fields can be relatively easily restored to native ecosystems. Building sites tend to be permanent conversion.
I am not even going to start on the benefits of indigenous farming for local ecosystems except to say that vertical farming wants to be apart from the environment instead of a part of it.
Thanks seems you saved me a click. Was expecting they’d found some deep fundamental issue, rather than, yknow as you said, exactly all the issues everyone already knows about.
This was the first time I really thought about LEDs being efficient enough to do indoor farming, just to immediately read that they’re effectively not. 🙃
jump into any weed growing forum, you will see they absolutely are lol.
this article seems pretty clickbaity, to the point it almost seems like a hit piece.
“fatal flaw” for an entire agricultural discipline…1st line of article: “europe’s energy crisis” hmmmm
Seems like the real problem isn’t with LEDs being efficient enough for indoor farming, but with the fact that Europe has an energy crisis.
Well, yeah, but if LEDs were another magnitude more efficient, then even such an energy crisis would hardly affect indoor farming.
I especially also want to extend this energy crisis. Because we need to get away from fossil fuels for cars and power plants, and I would also rather not be dependent on imports of nuclear fuel nor having the respective power plants in explosion range.
If that means, we need to plant our crops on a traditional field until we have our renewables down, that is a sacrifice I’m more than willing to make.
You really need to consider the social aspect of what you’re proposing. A planned transition from fossil fuels is one thing, but an energy crisis is quite another. This will lead to a massive drop in standard of living, people losing jobs, and so on. All of this will lead to social unrest and drive people towards extremism. The right is already on the rise in Europe, and as people become increasingly more desperate we’ll likely see the rise of fascism again.
Well, of course, I would like to find an balanced approach that causes the least suffering. So, investing heavily into renewables and for example taxing CO2 output to give money back to the people, would IMHO be smart strategies no matter what path we take.
But yeah, my problem is that your comment could easily be rewritten to talk about the climate crisis.
Here in Germany, we’ve lost entire cities to floods, while at the same time the ground is drier than it’s been in centuries, leading to important transport rivers drying up, farmers losing crops and whole forests burning down.
Summers are now so hot that if you can’t afford an AC, you’re risking your health.
Hell, many refugees, that fascists love to get riled up against, had to flee their home countries due to catastrophes caused by the climate crisis or conflicts/fascism caused by those.
And finally, the climate crisis can have a direct effect on the energy crisis, too. This summer, France had to lower the capacity of their few remaining nuclear power plants, because the rivers they use for cooling were largely dried up and already coming in at an increased temperature.
So, I’m afraid the balanced approach is going to hurt, no matter what we do.
The climate crisis is very real and it will cause increasing amount of suffering and disasters going forward. The problem is that there is no real solution to this crisis under capitalism.
The actual solution has to be to reorganize the economy away from consumption, and where people aren’t forced to work for the sake of work. Europe needs to drastically reduce energy consumption, but also ensure that people who are going to end up losing their jobs still have a way to live.
Meanwhile, a lot of large scale investment needs to happen into building out alternative energy production, and nuclear has to play a major role there, because it’s by far the most effective way to produce energy reliably outside of fossils.
Unfortunately, none of these things can happen under regimes that hold power in Europe currently. What I’ve described above is a much more likely scenario, and it will likely lead to the scenario you describe in turn.