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Controlled Environment Agriculture Reports

Resource Innovation Institute Releases CEA Benchmarking Report

The Resource Innovation Institute (RII), a not-for-profit public-private partnership, has unveiled its Controlled Environment Agriculture Energy & Water Benchmarking Report: Establishing Preliminary Benchmarks. This report, a result of a collaboration with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), emphasizes the water-saving potential of Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA).

Derek Smith, Executive Director of RII, stated, “The data clearly shows the water-saving potential of CEA. This report is a crucial step in understanding resource utilization in controlled environments. However, more in-depth research is needed to identify the most efficient energy and water pathways truly.”

Key insights from the report include:

  • Confirmation of the water-saving and water quality potential of CEA. Water circularity strategies in CEA can lead to over 90% water savings compared to traditional field farming.
  • Unlike field farms, CEA facilities integrate processing, packing, and storage steps, all-consuming energy.
  • There isn’t a one-size-fits-all CEA facility. Efficiency varies based on facility size, production methods, and business models.
  • CEA facilities consistently enhance their energy productivity and efficiency, especially with support from utilities and governments.

Smith added, “The farms participating in our benchmarking process have shown tremendous leadership and trust. Their contributions are pivotal in enhancing the resilience potential of CEA.”

The report is a culmination of a two-year research project that analyzed utility and fuel bills from 12 leading greenhouse and indoor farms using RII’s PowerScore benchmarking platform. The report and RII’s Water Circularity Best Practices Guide for Controlled Environment Agriculture Operations are available for free download from the Resource Innovation Institute library.

Participating Farms include 80 Acres Farms, AppHarvest, Bowery Farming, Bushel Boy, Finn & Roots, Little Leaf Farms, Local Bounti, Planted Detroit, Pure Green Farms, Square Roots, and Vertical Harvest.

The report’s review includes experts from various organizations, including Vertical Harvest, Revol Greens, Local Bounti, USDA Agricultural Research Service, DesignLights Consortium, School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell University, CEA Alliance, and more.

Feedback on the Report:

Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding commented, “Controlled environment agriculture is vital for Pennsylvania’s future. RII’s report underscores CEA’s significance in our agricultural portfolio, highlighting its potential in reducing water usage and nutrient runoff.”

Julia Kurnik of the World Wildlife Fund remarked, “When indoor farms collaborate to share sustainability data, the entire industry benefits. This report offers valuable insights on water and energy use, setting the stage for future sustainability benchmarks and progress.”

Read more here.

Photo by Katrien Van crombrugghe on Unsplash 

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