Indoor Farms and the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Indoor Farms and the UN Sustainable Development Goals

In two weeks time, Re-Nuble will be at NYC Agtech Week. One of the sessions that we’ll be running is about Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) operations and its alignment with the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In lieu of this upcoming conversation, we wanted to look at some farms and how they’re trying to meet some of these goals.
NYC Agtech Week 2021 Riyana Razalee Re-Nuble

SDG 2 – Zero Hunger
The United Nations has estimated that approximately 9.7 billion people will exist on this planet by 2050, which means there will be 2.4 billion more mouths to feed compared to where we currently stand globally. Research analyst, Soumalya Chakraborty, told FoodNavigator that, “Vertical farming… holds promise for communities struggling with chronic food security problems”.

A vertical farm that has explicitly stated that eliminating hunger is a goal for them is Aerofarms. They rely on artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize nutrient inputs and increase yields in real time. By incorporating computer vision together with robotics, they are also able to harvest their crops at the most prime time. In other words, higher productivity and efficiency, more food, less hungry people.

To create even more impact, perhaps we can consider these questions:

  1. If vertical farms are placed close to urban centers, how will we help communities that are in more remote locations?
  2. Will vertical farms ever be able to help these communities or is that a utopian perspective?
SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-Being

The lack of access to good food means people are then forced to choose inexpensive food which has low nutritional value. When this happens, entire communities get looped into cycles of poor health. Feeding America’s video clearly articulates this, pointing out that 1 in 8 Americans are food insecure, which means they will consistently get access to unhealthy food.


Source: Feeding America

We particularly like this explanation by Plenty Farms, an indoor farm that is addressing this issue: “One of the foundational elements in Plenty’s mission to restore human health is growing fresh produce so delicious and nutrient-dense that any human can be just as happy to reach for a bowl of strawberries over a sleeve of cookies; to experience arugula with a flavor so punchy it makes their mouth water even more than a potato chip”. The art of making nutritious food accessible without having to be shipped from miles away is changing the face of agriculture, as well know. But, to take things further, the farm partnered with Project Open Hand an organization that provides nutritious meals to the sick and vulnerable, ensuring that the benefits of the world of CEA are not just limited to certain demographics.

Now, as an add-on, can consideration also be given to the following?:

  1. Nutritious food may taste better as a result of CEA’s growing methods. But what structures need to be put in place in order to make it affordable and accessible for all?
  2. Are there cultural nuances that need be taken into consideration when balancing nutrition and what certain communities may use in their cooking?

CEA operations have done an exceptional job at accomplishing many of the UN SDGs. However, with any industry, there’s always room for improvement and critical analysis in order to create even more purposeful and positive impact. These conversations keep the industry in-check to avoid greenwashing. So, while the examples above only address two SDGs and two CEA operations, we’ll be digging deeper with industry experts. Join us on the 23rd of September - we’d also love to hear your thoughts during the session so ask away!

By Riyana Razalee

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