By” Emily Newton
Indoor growers rely on the latest technology to ensure their greenhouse operations — from ventilation to irrigation to pollination — enable the right growing conditions. Just as one upgrades their mobile devices and laptops, advancements in greenhouse technology aim to improve these systems.
Using emerging technologies in indoor growing spaces has effectively optimized crop growth. Facilities have leaned into automated systems that enable climate control and data collection to understand plant needs better. Many agree that enhanced greenhouse innovations lend themselves to improved agricultural sustainability.
Indoor Farming Reaching New Heights
The global indoor farming market is valued at $28.7 billion, expected to grow by 10.1% to $67 billion in 2031. Although there’s ample room for indoor farming to expand, the industry is already booming.
Market growth is attributed to the need for sustainable food production as the global population inches closer to its peak. Additionally, a stronger desire for locally grown produce and organic goods has been equally influential.
Advanced greenhouse technology could prove exceedingly beneficial to ramping up the global food supply. The World Health Organization reported that global hunger affected 828 million people in 2021 — a 150 million-person increase since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, human activity and climate change have also impacted the global agriculture sector. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) warns there could be a 24% and 17% decrease in crop yields for maize and wheat by 2030, respectively — this would occur under a high greenhouse gas scenario.
Innovations in horticulture enable protected growing conditions for fruits and vegetables. It’s possible that indoor farming contains the untapped potential to be a standard model for future crop growth.
The Latest Greenhouse Technology to Maximize Growth
Indoor growers understand the struggles of manually determining the specifications for healthy crops. Until recent years, greenhouse farmers relied on traditional plant science and growing processes to produce yields, such as watering and maintaining soil health. Fortunately, they can integrate these six greenhouse innovations for maximum results.
1. Wireless Sensors
Wireless sensor networks are like taking one’s hands off the steering wheel, in which specialized software does the hard work for you. Innovative technology can now measure indoor temperatures, humidity, carbon dioxide and lighting in real-time.
The sensors collect data automatically and transmit the information to an operating system, which deploys various controls to maintain the proper greenhouse conditions. The best part is that growers can control their mobile devices’ wireless sensors.
On a larger scale, farmers have begun using wireless sensors in traditional agricultural settings as part of their crop management strategy. Sensors show them ways to limit natural resource inputs, conserve water and reduce their reliance on synthetic fertilizers.
2. Self-Sufficient Irrigation Systems
One of the most challenging aspects of plant science is determining the correct amount of water needed without overusing resources. Self-irrigation systems harvest rainwater, condensation and recirculated water to water greenhouse crops without excess.
For example, California startup Iron Ox led by Rebekah Moses — the former sustainability strategist at Impossible Foods — hopes to achieve 90% water saving by utilizing a closed-loop system.
Self-sufficient irrigation systems like these take the guesswork out of watering plants by ensuring water goes where it’s needed most.
3. Carbon Dioxide Supplementation
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is necessary for photosynthesis — a chemical reaction between water and CO2 that uses light to cultivate sugar as plant food. As a result, the plant releases oxygen into the atmosphere.
Carbon dioxide supplementation is a crucial advancement in greenhouse technology that growers should take advantage of in the coming years. Data has shown that integrating CO2 enrichment could increase crop yields by 20% and improve plant resiliency to heat.
These new mechanisms boost the amount of CO2 in a greenhouse to increase photosynthesis. This process causes the plants to reach maturity faster for numerous yearly harvests.
4. Advanced Lighting System
Light is the third component of photosynthesis — sugar can’t form without it. Fortunately, innovations have dramatically improved lighting systems for greenhouses and enhanced energy efficiency.
Red Sun Farms in Ontario, Canada, uses light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for year-round growing. This unique greenhouse technology is especially advantageous during the harsh winter months — the system mimics the full spectrum of natural sunlight to adjust yields.
Meanwhile, the Getlini greenhouses in Latvia — recognized as the most modern and sustainable indoor farm worldwide — also upgraded its lighting system to reduce energy use and enhance crop productivity.
Getlini growers integrated their lighting systems with advanced software to increase control and scheduled lighting precision. They tested the system by analyzing cucumber yields.
5. Robotic Pollination
Robotic pollination is another emerging greenhouse technology expected to take indoor farming by storm. Robotic pollinators can inspect plants, map the greenhouse layout, pollinate and track growth.
A research team at West Virginia University has been exploring ways to use robotic pollination to compensate for pollinators’ disappearance. They created a six-armed robot they call StickBug that maps out the greenhouse and begins pollinating, freeing up time for growers to focus on other essential tasks.
The researchers aim for StickBug and other robotic pollinator prototypes to enhance food security despite low insect pollinator populations. Scientists recently studied crop production in Honduras, Nepal and Nigeria, uncovering a 12%-31% economic loss in crop yields due to pollinator decline. This could lead to 427,000 deaths annually due to inadequate food resources and food-borne diseases.
6. Vertical Hydroponic System
Vertical growing isn’t new, nor does it sound very technical. However, growing plants vertically maximize greenhouse space and introduce hydroponic systems for improved irrigation.
Hydroponic gardening grows plants without soil, allowing water to recirculate nutrients such as phosphorus, calcium and nitrogen. Therefore, vertical hydroponic gardening is simply growing plants hydroponically from top to bottom instead of horizontally.
The Future of Greenhouse Technologies Looks Bright
Growers can expect the latest greenhouse technology to change how they grow plants for the better — from improved processes to increased crop productivity. Many would argue that these innovations are long overdue. The world will have a greater chance of safeguarding its food supply as more greenhouses adopt advanced technologies in the future.
Emily Newton is a journalist with over four years of experience covering the environmental sector. As Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, she also covers how technology changes our world.