Controlled Environment Agriculture for Metro Areas

Conventional farming is resource intense, using large amounts of land and water. For consumers in metropolitan areas, produce then has to be shipped long distances at high cost both economically and environmentally. Controlled environment agriculture (CEA)—such as greenhouses, plant factories, or vertical farms—may be a promising, sustainable alternative for vegetable production in these areas. However, CEA is energy intensive, and comprehensive information is lacking on the environmental and economic sustainability as well as the scalability of CEA compared to conventional field production.

Neil S. Mattson, School of Integrative Plant Science, Horticulture, is leading a transdisciplinary team of researchers at Cornell and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to compare the economic and environmental footprint of CEA versus field vegetable supply chains. The team is also testing novel systems to optimize the efficiency of resource use in CEA vegetable production. Additional aims include fostering industry-research networks and structured workforce development programs to facilitate the acceptance, adoption, and continued improvement of viable CEA systems in metropolitan areas.

Collectively, the project will lay the groundwork for more sustainable food, energy, and water systems exemplified by CEA vegetable production. Results will provide knowledge and insights for informed decision making by policy makers, city planners, entrepreneurs, and current CEA operations, as well as education resources to train an appropriate workforce for a growing CEA industry.

Cornell Researchers

Funding Received

$2.4 Million spanning 3 years