There's always been something a little bit sinister about the outdoors, being all big and out there and full of bears. It's a shame that the plants we eat depend on the outdoors so heavily, but as it turns out, plants are brainless and don't know what's best for them. In fact, they're better off growing inside under the warm friendly glow of red and blue LEDs.
PlantLab is a Dutch company that's trying to increase global food production by designing optimized indoor growing environments for plants. These environments are strikingly different from what we traditionally think of as a good place to grow stuff, because PlantLab only includes what plants actually need, and cuts out everything else.
For example, as far as plants are concerned, a lot of the sunlight that they seem to care about so much is simply unnecessary. In order to photosynthesize, plants only need red and blue wavelengths of light, and in fact getting the entire spectrum from the sun is actually detrimental to plant growth. So, PlantLab grows plants using only red and blue LEDs, which allows the plants to photosynthesize twice as efficiently, producing more food while using less energy.
Each type of plant is micromanaged in tightly controlled, sensor-filled environments, with every variable tweaked depending on what's being grown. PlantLab continuously monitors and adjusts light color, light intensity, light color ratios, day length, infrared energy, light temperature, root temperature, plant temperature, irrigation amount and frequency, nutrition (fertilizers), air velocity, air composition, humidity and CO2 levels. Recycling of as many inputs and outputs as possible makes the entire process extremely efficient, and recapturing evaporated water (for example) allows PlantLab to operate using about 10% of the water as a traditional greenhouse. Furthermore, use of a closed system means that there are no diseases, no pests, and therefore no pesticides. It's awesome sounding, but a pretty weird place in practice:
While the price of the LEDs that PlantLab uses are still a bit too high to fully commercialize these farms, they're getting cheaper every year, and PlantLab hopes that they could be building indoor farms everywhere from Antarctica to your basement to the Moon in just a few years. Or maybe a bit longer for the Moon, I suppose.
Check out some of the bizaare looking (but must assuredly tasty) veggies from PlantLab in the gallery below.