Climate Proposal: Reduce Food Miles with Urban Food Produced Under Grow Lights

LED grow lights with two potted plants
LED grow lights with two potted plants. By Sunshine 117 [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Worried about food miles? The solution according to these greens is growing food in your basement under grow lights.

Driverless cars and climate change prompt push for urban farming

With autonomous vehicles promising to reshape buildings and even entire cities, and climate change beginning to bite, the opportunities for urban farming solutions are growing.

Five kilograms of mushrooms, 100 heads of lettuce and 25 trays of micro-greens. These are the spoils so far from Mirvac’s urban farm pilot set up in the basement of its 200 George Street HQ in Sydney.

The pilot program, Cultivate, has been operating for about six weeks, and has seen 200 staff sign up to get involved in fresh food production.

The farm includes veggie patches and hydroponic vertical farms, as well as mushrooms grown in coffee grounds diverted from landfill. Special grow lamps are used to stimulate plant growth in the basement environment.

“An urban farm could be created in a building’s redundant car park and the produce used to service local kitchens and cafes within that proximity,” JLL head of property and asset management – Australia Richard Fennell said.

Read more:

I understand the urge to grow your own food, but I can’t help thinking urban farmers promoting the climate benefits of their initiative have overlooked a few details.

Running grow lights on any scale requires a stupendous amount of energy – you have to produce sunlight levels of light intensity to grow vegetables. Depending on latitude the Earth’s surface experiences up to 1000 watts per square meter of solar irradiation. While grow lights can improve on this a little, by only producing colours which are useful for plant photosynthesis, you still need a lot of energy to run a decent size bank of grow lights.

Its difficult to see how you could produce enough energy to replace millions of acres of farmland from a few wind turbines.

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June 6, 2018 8:40 pm

Greens cannot do math.

Greg S.
Reply to  Tom Halla
June 6, 2018 8:52 pm

They’re also completely disconnected from reality.

Richard of NZ
Reply to  Tom Halla
June 7, 2018 4:44 am

Math(s)? Simple arithmetic appears to be beyond them. Does that make them more simple than simple?

Reply to  Tom Halla
June 7, 2018 7:20 am

The law of unintended consequences is about to raise its ugly head. This isn’t even interesting enough to be a fad; more like a passing fancy when they find out it is much more expensive than real food grown by experts. If this kind of thing really worked, I’d take up doing my own plumbing.

Reply to  Tom Halla
June 7, 2018 10:42 am

Math is the province of dead white European males.

June 6, 2018 8:47 pm

I have NO fear of GMO food … however I am scared bat-shitless of basement grown micro greens

Reply to  Kenji
June 6, 2018 10:33 pm

The only basement grown micro greens used to be an illegal crop back in the day.

David Guy-Johnson
June 6, 2018 8:54 pm

Nuts, just nuts. And I don’t mean grow them in your basement.

R. Shearer
June 6, 2018 8:56 pm

Best add some CO2 into the grow houses.

Bryan A
Reply to  R. Shearer
June 6, 2018 10:01 pm

And be mindful of increasing O2 levels from plant respiration, especially in enclosed Basements which also contain potential open fire sources … Water heaters, furnaces, and boilers and such.

Lynn Clark
June 6, 2018 8:57 pm

I tried growing a tomato plant in my basement about 12 years ago. It produced no fruit. I then realized that I didn’t have any bees (or any other pollinators) in my basement to do the job. Since I didn’t also want to keep bees in my basement, nor did I want to do the pollination job myself, that ended my basement agriculture experiment. lol

The next summer I grew a dozen tomato plants on my backyard deck. About a week before they were all ready to harvest, a massive hailstorm of almost-golfball-size hailstones destroyed the roof of my house and every tomato plant and all except five tomatoes in about five minutes. That ended my backyard-deck agriculture experiment. lol

Reply to  Lynn Clark
June 6, 2018 10:22 pm

One plant you can pollinate yourself.

Though, it is terribly inefficient to grow a single plant, both environmentally and practically. They are wasteful and expensive tomatoes.

This hype will go away. But some salads will be grown underground because you can.

Reply to  Hugs
June 7, 2018 7:22 am

“pollinate yourself”


Sam C Cogar
Reply to  Hugs
June 7, 2018 7:42 am

One plant you can pollinate yourself.

And one (1) tomato plant is all you need, and it is neither “wasteful or expensive” to grow, ….. be it outside your house or inside if you pollinate it yourself, …. just keep the “suckers” trimmed off, ……. keep it loosely wrapped around a vertical stake ……. and let it continue growing upward ….. and it will continue producing new fruit at the top of the vine, ….. all the tomatoes you care to eat. If the top of the plant bends or falls over, it will stop producing.

Mike From Au
Reply to  Lynn Clark
June 7, 2018 12:40 am

OF Topic: …hmmm….Had to click the “READ MORE” click button to read the rest of your comment and it is annoying. YouTube did this and failed and it is a shame to see this similar tact in place here. What a shame.
Sorry to hear about your tomatoe mistake. *sigh*…

Mike From Au
Reply to  Mike From Au
June 7, 2018 1:13 am

“failed” in the sense that scrolling through comments is a much more efficient navigation means for those who want the ‘big picture’. Sorry to hear WUWT went down this road.

Roger Knights
Reply to  Mike From Au
June 7, 2018 1:55 am

The READ MORE employed here would be more tolerable if it embedded a visual marker in the expanded text after the last word that was previously visible. Or if it “broke” text at the end of a sentence or paragraph. Or both.

Mike From Au
Reply to  Roger Knights
June 7, 2018 5:33 am

The ‘read more’ button will statistically encourage those who are expert in the art of the ‘one liner’……Mainly it discourages reading long and well thought out comments…..forget sentences or paragraphs.

Mike From Au
Reply to  Mike From Au
June 7, 2018 5:56 am

As i say…..”the scroll down the page function embodied in a normal mouse does the job better than a “READ MORE” click, click button…. My patronage to this site is diminished by more than 95%….or a lot more at this point. And thanks for all the fish.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Mike From Au
June 8, 2018 8:14 am

“As i say…..”the scroll down the page function embodied in a normal mouse does the job better than a “READ MORE” click, click button”

I agree. Much faster and doesn’t use up internet resources.

Reply to  Lynn Clark
June 7, 2018 8:44 am

Nature, always wins.

Patrick MJD
June 6, 2018 9:02 pm

How much energy is consumed by the artificial light and how much CO2 released compared to conventional farms and transport by truck to market? The article is full of pictures with lots and lots of electrically powered light, and I assume pumped water source somewhere.

Hexe Froschbein
Reply to  Patrick MJD
June 7, 2018 6:39 am

Those plants will be growing under low level, cool LED lights. Salads do no take heat kindly, and the system is very efficient and vermin free, if done properly it uses almost no chemicals and the nutrient solution is also utilised far better than in soil. Also, working in this kind of plant is far easier (and often automated already).

Whether this saves energy or chemicals is not as important as how fresh the produce can be delivered to the local shops and how high the quality is.

You can try it for yourself — your local IKEA will be happy to sell you some LED grow lights and kit for your very own salad farm to play with. It’s a lot of fun, and no, just in case any here is suddenly inspired, you cannot grow whacky-bacci with this, and sadly, orchids that need a lot of sunlight also are out of the question.

Peter Wilson
June 6, 2018 9:04 pm

This kind of horticulture is both extremely capital and energy intensive. It is only economically viable for one plant, and thats not the one these people have in mind!

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Peter Wilson
June 6, 2018 9:06 pm

I think they came up with the idea after smoking said plant.

J Mac
Reply to  Peter Wilson
June 6, 2018 10:19 pm

Sure it is, Peter!
‘Mircro-greens’ is the marketing name for their ‘herbs’!

Lee L
Reply to  Peter Wilson
June 7, 2018 12:33 am

Reminds me of time when my kids were young and one of them went over to a school friend’s place after school. He was told by the kid that they weren’t allowed to play in the basement cuz his dad had is ‘tomato plants’ down there.

J Mac
June 6, 2018 9:06 pm

Thanks but I’ll stick with my country grown, free range, direct solar powered and CO2 fed veggies, fruit, grains, beef, pork, chicken, fish, deer, and any other thing out there that looks good, smells good, and tastes good.

Have you ever picked a sun warmed, soft and fully ripe peach off the tree… and eaten it, right then? You’re inhaling the perfume of the peach in your nostrils, as the gush of peach perfection floods your taste buds and leaks out the corners of your mouth? Your eyes close as you swallow, in a moment of near gastronomic nirvana.

Yeah…….. you aren’t gonna get that outta nooooo basement grow!!!!

June 6, 2018 9:07 pm

And “urban farming” (green house by another name) will still require replacement nutrients for the plants, even if soilless methods are used. In other words, fertilizer will still be needed, so mining, processing, and transportation will still be required. Water use can be more efficient, but still a lot of water will need to be supplied. There is a company doing this sort of thing on a large scale, it would be interesting to see a rigorous input/output analysis.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  LarryD
June 6, 2018 9:40 pm

This magazine has some info you may like to know about.

The Expulsive
Reply to  LarryD
June 7, 2018 4:31 am

Simply tons of fertilizer is going to waste in cities (from treatment plants)…does that make you hungry?

Reply to  The Expulsive
June 7, 2018 7:18 am

Biosolids (treated human waste aka night soil) is already used in agriculture and some additional areas where fertilizer is required.

John B
Reply to  LarryD
June 7, 2018 4:56 am

And the growing environment will provide an ideal habitat for a range of adorable little beasties, insect and mammal, which will eat the plants and wander round and colonise the house.

It’s a kind of innocence you see: when you have ideology you don’t need knowledge or common sense.

Robert W Turner
Reply to  LarryD
June 7, 2018 8:03 am

Fertilizer is easy, plenty of invasive fish species to scoop up and turn into paste.

June 6, 2018 9:08 pm

It sounds like it has taken six weeks to grow enough to give the 200 participants 1 meal.

Patrick MJD
June 6, 2018 9:13 pm

Basements in the buildings I have lived in here in Sydney are usually for vehicle parking which are covered in dust, soot and other forms of crud deposited on surfaces. Not good on your food.

Reply to  Patrick MJD
June 7, 2018 1:36 am

You mean, used for useful stuff like parking cars? Read the subtext. You will not be allowed to drive to work in the future. Or park a car under your apartment block, so then it will be available for green virtue signalling.

Keith Rowe
June 6, 2018 9:15 pm

Wow, just a little bit of thought and math says it’s a terrible idea. Lights are what about 10% efficient, plants are what 1-2% efficient. Transforming 100 watts (with 100% transfer rate) to chemical energy of 0.1-0.2%. Seems like a winner.

Reply to  Keith Rowe
June 6, 2018 11:22 pm

Yes! Worse than that, to generate the benefits they want, the electricity cannot come from coal or natural gas, only renewable will do. For funsies, let’s assume your numbers above are correct, and the electricity is going to come from solar panels.

Solar panels are about 20% efficient. So 1 acre of solar panels can support 0.2 acres of lights at 100% efficiency. Factor in a 30% loss for transmission losses gives you only 0.14 acres of lights. Ooops, the lights are only 10% efficient, so we’re down to 0.014 acres of lights powered by 1 acre of solar cells. But wait… we’ll need water circulated, temperature controlled, air circulated and fertilizer. So let’s figure 50% of the energy gets consumed with those things. That means our 1 acre of solar panels can support 0.007 acres of grow op. Or, to flip it around, we’d need 143 acres of solar cells to support 1 acre of grow op.

Seems to me that’s like taking 142 acres of food production out of the system. That can’t be good….

Solar panel manufacturers may disagree.

Lee L
Reply to  Keith Rowe
June 7, 2018 12:35 am

Lots of watts in the basement = air conditioning watts upstairs.

John F. Hultquist
June 6, 2018 9:35 pm

This too shall pass.

With autonomous vehicles promising to reshape buildings and even entire cities, and climate change beginning to bite, the opportunities for urban farming solutions are growing.

GM is spending a lot of money on AVs. They won’t begin to put a dent in reshaping buildings, except for a very few experimental ones. Maybe 2 to 4 in 10 years.
Someone may fund (hope it isn’t tax payers) an entire city, say of 5,000 to 10,000 people. As for NYC, Chicago, or Seattle being “reshaped” to suit AVs — not a chance. Okay, chance may be greater than zero, but just.
And if Climate Change is beginning to bite, folks must be watching CNN, listening to NPR, or visiting some other fantasy land.

These urban gardens may, in some small way, increase the demand for CO2.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  John F. Hultquist
June 6, 2018 9:37 pm

Interesting. Formatting went the way of T. Rex – – gone!

Reply to  John F. Hultquist
June 7, 2018 7:27 am

Formatting reappears when you click “read more”.
Which also makes it harder to find where “read more” starts after clicking.

Reply to  John F. Hultquist
June 7, 2018 7:26 am

People keep telling me that autonomous cars are going to eliminate the need for personally owned vehicles.

If taxis didn’t, I don’t see how self driving cars will either.

David Chappell
June 6, 2018 10:26 pm

Not forgetting the interest the police drug squad might take because of abnormally high power bills.

June 6, 2018 10:27 pm

Indoor or warehouse gardening is not far-fetched. It can be, and has been, profitable but there are only a few profitable crops, mostly organic greens, and that market is limited, so not much room for growth. If you are interested in pursuing the subject, review .

Tomatoes are self-pollinating. What the indoor environment lacks for tomatoes is wind. There are various methods to overcome this. Hand pollination is also not a very big deal with bee or other insect pollinated fruit.

There are also indoor fodder systems that can efficiently supply supplemental feed for livestock, but that is not very green for the Greens.

Reply to  ACParker
June 7, 2018 1:41 am

By organic greens, do you mean marijuana?

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
Reply to  ACParker
June 7, 2018 1:49 am

I rate market growing food in poly tunnels as indoor food cropping and it works well on a commercial scale because the light comes from the Sun naturally, temperatures are higher because warmth is conserved by the PLASTIC sheeting forming the tunnels and probably CO2 levels are slightly elevated compared to outside. All exactly intelligently conceived and commercially viable.

The idea of growing useful quantities of food in your basement rates at the same level of intellect as the professional footballer who decided to have his firework show indoors and, surprise surprise, set fire to his house requiring a swift visit from the fire brigade. Yes it really happened. Nice to know there are lots of potential recruits still out there for the green daft ideas machine.

Phillip Bratby
June 6, 2018 10:28 pm

We often hear about such schemes in the UK (London of course). All they seem to be able to grow are salad-type crops. It’s a waste of energy in a highly populated world – big farms are needed, not this micro-culture beloved of greens.

M Courtney
Reply to  Phillip Bratby
June 7, 2018 2:43 pm

It is already economically viable in London.

The key issue issue is the demand for fresh salads of reliable quality in London’s restaurants. Being underground enables great consistency of produce.

Radio 4 reported on a successful business on Inside Science.

Lil Fella From Aus
June 6, 2018 11:14 pm

What next?????

Reply to  Lil Fella From Aus
June 7, 2018 10:45 am

Ranching in your basement?

June 6, 2018 11:14 pm

Micro greens??? Must be smaller than sprouts. Moss maybe? Are we talking about the stuff that grows on wet driveways? Pond scum? 25 trays of it?? Or are we talking about little, tiny environmentalists??

And the genius of salvaging coffee grounds from land fills! I love the smell of grant money in the morning.

Reply to  markopanama
June 7, 2018 12:23 am

I mix used coffee grounds into the soil for my herb garden. It’s actually quite good in this part of the country – the native soil is quite alkaline, and the acids from the grounds neutralize some of that without adding other elements that I don’t need, like sulfur.

However – the nearest coffee plantation to my house is more than 1,000 miles away. Bulk transport of the beans, grinding (I don’t do my own), transport to the store – well, I’m helping to green the planet with all of that extra CO2 just to have my own fresh basil, thyme, and whatnot.

Reply to  markopanama
June 7, 2018 1:48 am

“Micro greens”… I think they mean herbs like basil, thyme, oregano, etc. Not something you’d base a whole meal on, just something to add a bit of flavour.

Reply to  Hivemind
June 7, 2018 6:57 am

microgreens are salad stuffs, baby cos and butter lettuce and spinach beet rocket endive etc cut when only around 3 to 4 inches/leaf stage, takes a fair bit of effort to crop and then you keep recropping for a few weeks, indoors you cant let -or get -them to go to seed, they all need pollinating and the cost of replacment seed isnt that cheap for large area planting either.

June 6, 2018 11:15 pm

Where will i find the space for the cows?

Reply to  Ack
June 7, 2018 7:36 am

Obviously you are going to need micro cows.

June 6, 2018 11:45 pm

Mushrooms do not require light. In fact UV destroy mushrooms that is why they grow in shaded areas.
As for other foods, we can grow vegetables that naturally require less light: lettuce, sorrel, peas, beans, cabbage, brussel sprouts, spinach, kale …
And we can always breed more that will tolerate low intensity light.
I noticed that some commenters here are automatically skeptical of new ideas. While skepticism is a healthy attitude, too much is also bad. I suggest open mindedness spiced by a dose of skepticism to maintain balance.

Lee L
Reply to  Paul Sarmiento
June 7, 2018 12:37 am

Mushrooms do not require light.
Not sure about this but… do they not require something else though?

Reply to  Eric Worrall
June 7, 2018 8:00 am

I agree that you still need light. But you can actually pipe in light from the roof using acrylic fibers. (as in fiber optics but carries no data, only photons). The only reason you’ll be using the basement is to avoid the need to reinforcing your load bearing columns and avoid piping water up. This could actually make it practical to grow vegetables in the basement. The initial cost may be higher but the savings in electricity will be huge.

Reply to  Paul Sarmiento
June 7, 2018 6:58 am

normal super tasty mushrooms grow out in the paddocks where the cows/horses etc pooped some months before, indoor ones are tasteless in comparison!

Reply to  ozspeaksup
June 7, 2018 7:55 am

Agree on this. But it’s the poop that gives it flavor and not the light.

Sam C Cogar
Reply to  ozspeaksup
June 7, 2018 8:16 am

Most all DC “swamp” politicians are really great “mushroom farmers” ……. simply because they keep the public in the “dark” and are constantly feeding them horse manure.

Reply to  Paul Sarmiento
June 7, 2018 7:37 am

Since plants need light to grow, the only way to breed a plant to use less light is to breed it to grow more slowly.

June 7, 2018 12:27 am

There is a condition where this appears to work, the arctic.

In one community, for example, growing the produce is roughly 25% of its retail cost. The growers and the grocery store can add margins and customers still pay 30% less than they would have otherwise. link

In arctic communities, fresh food has to be flown in. A head of lettuce can cost $8.00. The normal thing is to not have fresh food. In coastal communities, food is shipped in by sea, once a year. You buy everything you need then.

The other thing about the arctic is that electricity is usually produced by diesel generators. It’s pretty expensive. The reason indoor farming works in the arctic is that shipping food is even more expensive.

Reply to  commieBob
June 7, 2018 6:24 am

Note that in summer there is light 24/7 in the Arctic, so greenhouses do well, though they have problems with heavy snow in winter.

Reply to  commieBob
June 7, 2018 7:01 am

made me laugh the desert areas in NT in aus and other isolated areas also slug folks 8$ or more for a lettuce or cabbage too. madness when people COULD grow their own easily in those places.

Robert W Turner
Reply to  commieBob
June 7, 2018 8:28 am

And there are several issues that will make this more viable in the future – population growth, aquifer depletion, and transportation costs.

June 7, 2018 12:57 am

Seems like it would work alright in cold countries.

Have a fossil fuelled generator in the basement, vent the exhaust into the growing area to raise CO2 levels, use heat pumps to move the excess heat to the rest of the building. Fuel consumption should be about what would be needed to heat the building by other methods and you could grow crops all the year round.

Reply to  BillP
June 7, 2018 7:04 am

and you AND the food cop carbon MONoxide and keel over? and the taste of the fuel particulates that are on the food if you survived?
you run thermal heating via water OR using solar thermal units made from drink cans and some wastewood and a sheet of glass.
youve not researched it have you 😉

Reply to  BillP
June 7, 2018 8:40 am

I live in a cold country. Greenhouses are a common sight but they are rarely used to grow food. Mostly they produce flowers and plants for transplanting outdoors. In other words, they are used to extend the growing season.
If growing food indoors was economical, why is it that tomatoes, vegetables, and fruits from Mexico and from even further south are competitive in Canadian supermarkets.
Growing food in greenhouses may be economical in warmer areas with less need for supplemental heat and more hours of wintertime sunlight.
I do not see how using artificial light can be economical or environmentally friendly.

Ed Zuiderwijk
June 7, 2018 1:24 am

I know a guy who already grows his food this way. Only, he doesn’t eat it, he smokes it.

June 7, 2018 1:30 am

When I was a kid I remember that just outside the city center most houses had a garden big enough to grow your own vegetables and even have a goat and some chicken.. Now we grow grass and flowers and it is even forbidden to grow food.

June 7, 2018 1:37 am

Greenies often use rediculous meaningless terms like that.

My favorite one is when they say they are “tackling climate change”. Like they are working hard toward stopping the earth’s climate from changing. These people are delusional.

June 7, 2018 1:55 am
Greg Woods
June 7, 2018 3:14 am

Just over a century ago agriculture was labor intensive, employing a large percentage of the population. Now these nuts want us to go back to that era?

June 7, 2018 3:24 am

“Five kilograms of mushrooms, 100 heads of lettuce and 25 trays of micro-greens.”

Humans and other living things need calories to thrive. Calories come from wheat, rice and corn not from lettuce and micro-greens. How many acres of corn can be grown inside under lights?

David Chappell
Reply to  rovingbroker
June 7, 2018 8:07 am

If you are Algore, probably quite a lot given the size and number of his houses

Bill G
June 7, 2018 3:42 am

But, but, but … won’t a couple of solar panels on top of a 40-story building provide enough energy for grow lights on all those floors?
It sounds so cool, it has to work! Right? Right?
Alas, the education system is doing the job it was intended to.

Reply to  Bill G
June 7, 2018 9:01 am

Exactly, Bill G. They can’t even do the quick back-of-an-envelop calculation which shows most of these ideas should have been strangled before birth, if you’ll pardon the imagery.

The simple calculation is that in most urban areas you could rent out the room in the basement as accommodation for much more money than the value of the food you could grow there. Simple economics of land value. Of course, when you are saving the planet, economics apparently doesn’t matter any more.

June 7, 2018 4:17 am

Glowworms would be more eco-friendly than grow lights, and you could probably serve them up with mushrooms and eat them at the end of their lifecycle.

Tom Abbott
June 7, 2018 4:37 am

Instead of artificial lights, they could use “Light Pipes” to funnel real sunlight to their plants.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
June 7, 2018 4:58 am

That just might work and then EVERY building would
look like the Pompidou Centre in Paris .

June 7, 2018 4:51 am

Is there nobody in the media or the environmental movement or politics who can THINK any more?

I read the headline to Mrs N and got the expected reaction in a nanosecond. I mean …. just how bright do you need to be to draw the obvious conclusion?

Reply to  Newminster
June 7, 2018 7:42 am

Brighter than a glow light.

June 7, 2018 4:54 am

Doing this is a good way to have a SWAT team kick in your doors and shoot you. After the fact they will merely shrug shoulders and say oops, thought they were growing marijuana.

Why not encourage people to use container gardening? Easy, effective and cheap. Hell, with cheap plastic window boxes you can grow plenty of lettuce, herbs, peppers, even onions. 5 gallon buckets work great for larger plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers, brussel sprouts, any number of vegetables and fruit. Using grow lights is expensive, and yes, idiots have burned down their homes using them. Lots of choices in this field, just search strawbale farming.

Reply to  2hotel9
June 7, 2018 4:55 am

OK, why did my 2 paragraphs get smushed into one big blob?

Reply to  2hotel9
June 7, 2018 7:43 am

Something to do with the “Read more” function.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  2hotel9
June 7, 2018 2:12 pm

If you click on “read more” then your paragraph will reappear properly. I suppose the writers of the code wanted to cram as much text into the part that is visible so they skipped the paragraph breaks.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
June 7, 2018 5:44 pm

Ahh, I see, said the blind man as he picked up his hammer and saw! Thought it might have something to do with the “texting” generation. I spend quite a bit of time deciphering the unintelligible chicken scratch of the under 30 crowd, it gets painful.

June 7, 2018 5:28 am

So some moron grows the least nutrient dense plants in his basement

June 7, 2018 5:48 am

nihil novo sub sole
I don’t understand the laughing here, since this is just the way industrialization goes: away from the sun and the wind, toward artificial use of energy and control of environment to have the plant reliably run 24/7 without all the natural, uncontrolled, hazards and pest.
Why would you laugh, when that’s just the case here made on a daily basis against renewable energy?

Sure, it cost money to light the plant. Just like it cost money to fuel an engine instead of running a windmill to grind flour, and still, what happened? The trick is
1) light is cheap (LED are very efficient), and you don’t need lot of it
2) most of the cost are NOT light, and with artificial light you can triple or more the productivity of the really costly inputs. So you actually save money even if it cost energy to light the plant
3) the customer target are people willing to pay more just because it is locally grown. It may sound nutty, but selling to nutty people is actually fairly solid business model, isn’t it? “ye, my salad is 1$ more expensive, but as you can see it is grown just here with NO chemicals, yes ma’am, so you save the planet, and that’s worth the cost”

This (hydroponics under artificial light) wouldn’t (still ) make sense for bulk food of easy storage like wheat, rice, peanuts, etc., but it DOES makes sense, and is actually pretty common, for high value, low nutritional, fast self-destroying fancy plant like salad or flowers (or drugs, as been pointed out).

John in Oz
June 7, 2018 6:05 am

I hope they are not using any fossil fuel-/coal-based plastic to hold these crops or to run the water/hydroponic liquids.

June 7, 2018 6:14 am

Hey…..Hey…..Hey — Do you reckon it may make it even more entertaining to add a brief proposal for using solar cells to produce the electricity and storage batteries with which to store the produced energy so the produced energy could then be used to power the lights if the lights were operated 24 X 7?

Aaron Watters
June 7, 2018 6:30 am

I’m not sure that argument makes sense, but if you want vegetables grown with no pesticides this is the way to go. Other advantages might include little or no fertilizer run off into rivers and the oceans and better use of water resources among other possibilities.

But I’m still not getting into a self driving car until they build a robot that can pick a strawberry.

Reply to  Aaron Watters
June 7, 2018 8:28 am

If they don’t build a robot that can see and pick a strawberry, it’s not because they cannot, it’s just because it would still cost too much to be worth building.
Tomatoes look more promising

June 7, 2018 6:47 am

so lets see..apart from the powercost and the manufacturing of the light sources power/ fuel/production cost to add in.. theres the buying in of dirt, fake fertiliser, unless they buy cowpoop,mushroom compost n pot mix and thats all transported to the city from rural areas too. comes in nice TOUGH unbiodegradable plastic bags too;-) coffeegrounds from the office pods? lol
mushrooms alone are fiddly n require a fair bit of prepping to grow well, boiling straw to sterilise it when mixing with coffeegrounds n kitchen could get messy.
they could just as well stick planters along window ledges or desks n do better.
but it sounds so…clever yuppie green dont it?

Reply to  ozspeaksup
June 7, 2018 6:55 pm

Yes. It’s usually called “a farm”.
As well as needing lots of sunshine, rain, and other messy things, farms are usually found where land prices are much less, i.e. not in cities.
And most people today would actually also prefer not to be farmers. They are happy to let a few people do the farming and sell their produce in supermarkets. That way the rest of us can get on with all the other things that actually make modern industrial civilization work.

June 7, 2018 7:13 am

Basement pot farms are often caught by using thermal cameras to find the hot spots caused by the grow lights.

June 7, 2018 7:15 am

..Fox News

GOP lawmakers raise red flags over environmental group’s ties to China

“The committee is concerned about the NRDC’s role in aiding China’s perception management efforts with respect to pollution control and its international standing on environmental issues in ways that may be detrimental to the United States,” the Republicans wrote.

Bruce Cobb
June 7, 2018 7:18 am

Greenie economics means never having to provide a balance sheet.

June 7, 2018 7:27 am

Whoever thinks grow lights are a great substitute for direct sun for growing food crops… needs to examine the power bills accrued by pot growers, who do this exact thing already.

Hint: the main way they get caught by law enforcement is via their four-figure monthly electric bills.

Now, how do the “indoor urban farming” crowd propose to generate all that extra electricity??

Reply to  Reziac
June 7, 2018 8:09 am

Grow pot together with the vegetable. At least now, they can say they are growing vegetable and they grow pot on the side to pay for the electricity.

Ed Bo
June 7, 2018 7:54 am

But, but… the thermodynamic efficiency of photosynthesis (the percentage of the light’s energy that is turned into increased chemical energy) can be as high as 3 or 4%!

Robert W Turner
June 7, 2018 7:59 am

LEDs have changed all that, and I do believe there is at least one profitable indoor LED grow light farmer —

I’ve been experimenting over the last year with indoor grow lights. I’ve got about 1,500 W equivalent of LED lights (220 W Power usage) running 12 hours a day — hardly noticeable on the electric bill. None of it is hydroponic.

After 1 year:
1 Mulberry bush – 7 ft tall (3/4″ trunk) and producing a handful of berries. So far this is a 100% female plant and I assume it is being pollinated by mulberry trees from outside because the pollen is so fine and makes its way anywhere. A female mulberry will actually clean your air of pollen and dust, whereas a male will fill your air will pollen to the point of miserable allergies.
9 coffee trees – 8 to 18 inches tall and all healthy. Coffee start to produce fruit on their second year so the viability of them is yet to be seen.
1 replanted pineapple and broccoli from store bought. The pineapple is too early to tell but it hasn’t died. The broccoli has now started producing new stems with large adult leaves and looks healthy. Just started avocado from seed.
The rest are typical house plants and all have thrived under the LEDs.

I chose a mulberry and coffee because they are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum as far as their voraciousness for sunlight — mulberry wants all it can get and coffee is an under canopy tree that doesn’t want any direct sun . I am actually surprised that the mulberry has done so well and appears as big or even bigger than a first year tree growing outdoors around here. Not having to deal with winter hybernation and the 100+ F degree days of summer certainly helps with that. I also chose coffee because it cannot grow outdoors here and this type of “farming” obviously has the greatest potential for growing tropical produce outside of its zone.

This is just an experiment to see if good fruit and vegetables can be produced this way, I’m not expecting a large harvest like from an outdoor garden. I’ll probably sell the coffee trees next summer and easily recoup all costs involved.

I’m thinking mangoes and mangosteens next.

June 7, 2018 8:41 am

These are the spoils so far from Mirvac’s urban farm pilot set up in the basement of its 200 George Street HQ in Sydney.

According to ‘Cushman and Wakefield’ average costs for Sidney commercial real estate is $720 AUD per sq. meter per month.
Realistically, that makes for very expensive lettuce and carrots…

Commercial real estate is expensive, even basement business real estate is pricey. It is certain that urban grown food costs fail to include all these expensive niggling details.

Which puts employee grow farms on the lowest rung possible when the business needs expansion room, or simply needs to cut costs.

June 7, 2018 8:42 am

Looked into a hydroponic setup to grow feed for the hay burners. It worked out to the equivalent of buying $160/ton hay when factoring in electricity costs. Of course this wasn’t paying me for my labor either…For the curious, hay out of the field is $140-$160/ton in these parts and jumps $200+ once in the barn. I didn’t do it because of the labor required part of the calculation. Taking off for a day, doable. Taking off for the weekend, problematic. Any longer than a weekend gone and you basically have to either find someone to take care of the operation or shut it down and restart again when you get home.

June 7, 2018 10:30 am

So, pave over thousand acres of farm land with solar farms that flash fry flying birds to power enough grow lights to grow about 150 acres of food?

I know, I know, math and logic are patriarchal rape culture

Dan Evens
June 11, 2018 7:17 am

Maybe people can grow some veggies in such a setup, provided they are willing to effectively pay a lot more for them. But one thing they surely will grow is mold. The normal house just isn’t set up, designed, or built, to have large trays of wet soil or hydroponic tanks. Filling your windows with green plants is about right. More than that and your walls will start to drip with condensation. And then to slime over with mold. Yech.

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