At first glance it looks like a scene out of Breaking Bad—a huge warehouse space with a few people wandering around in hazmat suits and blue gloves under glowing pink lights. But look closer and you’ll discover that it’s actually Green Sense Farms, in Portage, Indiana—the largest commercial indoor vertical farm in the US.
To grow produce indoors, Green Sense Farms collaborated with the lightbulb maker Philips to create sunlight-mimicking low-energy LEDs that can be programmed for hue, angle and time-of-day saturation to support around-the-clock growing of leafy lettuce, kale, arugula and more. Because of these lights, Green Sense farmers can harvest up to 26 times a year. And thanks to the vertical growing techniques, along with the basics of hydroponics—which provides direct nutrients, is soil free and water conserving––the savvy farm is using 0.1 percent of the water, land and fertilizer that the same crops would use outdoors.
The crops themselves grow in a medium made from coconut husks, instead of soil. The farmers germinate non-GMO seeds in the coconut material and when they’re done, it’s recycled. Whatever’s left is composted. This combination of vertical farming and LED-lights is paving the way for farmers to grow indoors in urban environments, which is what we’ll need if our population increases and arable land becomes even scarcer. But with just 30,000 square feet in Indiana, Green Source Farms can put out 3,000 cases of produce a week.
Right now Green Sense Farms is supplying only restaurants, commercial and retail, but one can imagine a future where we could go online, watch our lettuce grow and then double-click our way to salad heaven.