In times of presidential elections in France, a new debate has sparked amongst the deputies and political parties: Avoid lighting greenhouses during the night. Recent images captured to illustrate the sheer importance greenhouse lighting has and might push decision-makers to further restrict its usage at night.
As seen in the image above, greenhouses located in Britanny (West of France) have sparked new debates amongst the various stakeholders as neighbours complain about the lighting it has at night, environmental activists point out the lighting pollution and the large environmental impact it has as it furthers the carbon footprint of the produce harvested and others point out the impact it has on wild-life.
For the past decade, as a move from producers to meet increasing demand, many have invested in such technology to improve the production capacity. In France, this has allowed Brittany to become the leading region for Tomato production. It produces roughly 30% of the country’s annual output (150.000 tonnes per year are produced).
According to a report from “Le Télégramme”, tomatoes meet an important demand as each year, around 14Kg of tomatoes are consumed by the population and this has been growing year on year, forcing producers, coops’ to rely on other technologies to meet such demand whilst taking into account the current restrictions they have relating to a lack of labour, an ageing population, decreasing arable lands…
What’s more estimations from the French Ecological Transition Agency, estimate that importing from Spain would have a much less important carbon footprint than producing tomatoes on off-seasons as the greenhouses rely on heating to produce tomatoes.
The Problem: Not All Factors Are Considered
Producing in greenhouses has an impact on the environment, that is undeniable but current “traditional” farming methods face impacts from climate change (changes in weather conditions have impacted the output of most field-grown producers), an ageing population (across the world most countries face an ageing farmer population as younger population aspire to easier jobs), a decrease in arable land (in France alone, according to the association of young farmers, every second, about 26 square meters are lost) and ever more restrictive regulations to reduce the use of chemical products in the growing process of plants.
The problem can thus be resumed to Producing more, with less land, less labour and no chemical products.
Alternatives Exist With Vertical Farming But Concerns Arise In Meeting OPEX & CAPEX Requirements
Vertical farming can be used as an alternative as it is considered more efficient when considering the energy consumption to heat (proper insulation is installed) and avoiding lighting pollution. Nonetheless, there are concerns over important incremental investments as noted by Jacopo Monzini, a senior natural resources management officer at the FAO.
He notes that energy represents in some of these facilities about 80% of their OPEX and the source for most of these facilities is still natural gas.