Indoor Agriculture for Community Placemaking


                                                                                                                                         by Sheri Lupoli representing Team Trella

Central Park NYCStock photo of Central Park, NYC

When I wrote the last blog post “Changing with the Climate: Indoor Farming for Agricultural Revitalization” it was my intention to stimulate some thought on what nature can provide when we work with her rather than in spite of her. I suggested that automated, indoor vertical farming was rapidly gaining respect as the future of agriculture in the face of climate change. I wanted to present information in a way that could perhaps make us a bit more conscientious of our consumption and the effort required to meet our consumer needs. As such, vertical CEA deserves to be discussed, even if we cannot all agree why we find ourselves battling more frequently unseasonable and severe weather events.

There is a wonderful irony not lost on me that technology is one path towards the restoration and preservation of the natural world. There is so much to consider regarding the implications of indoor farming and CEA for environmental protection and natural resource conservation. It is common to compare the footprint of traditional farming methods to that of vertical CEA, or to offer tangible examples of how much energy it takes to produce what humans necessarily consume (not to mention what we don’t need and often waste, but that’s another story…). In fact, we’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would dispute the direct relationship between better agricultural practices, food justice, and the physical well-being of communities who are able to enjoy local, healthy produce.

The Transitive Law of Indoor Farming*

CEA may not only be critical to agricultural revitalization in some communities, but it may also be beneficial to creating the actual communities themselves. Healthy placemaking requires the creation of  green spaces in urban neighborhoods where residents suffer not just from barriers to healthy food, but from a complete disconnect to nature and its socio-economic resources. Cities without open green space offer little opportunity for residents to gather, socialize, and recreate outdoors. 

It may seem like a leap to connect the environment to human social behavior, or indoor farming to the potential reduction of isolation-based aggression, but...

          IF...  Vertical CEA = Agricultural Revitalization

        AND...    Agricultural Revitalization = Community Revitalization 

       THEN...   Vertical CEA = Community Revitalization 

Which is to say that it would be shortsighted to discuss indoor farming strictly in terms of agricultural yields. We must also consider how CEA can lend itself to the revitalization of communities that suffer from a lack of safe, green, communal spaces.

  *(Transitive Law: If A=B and B=C then A=C. Guess I paid a little attention in Logic Class)


Connecting People Through Environmental Justice

As we have learned during this pandemic, when human beings must struggle to find safe and healthy ways to get together, more often than not the constant challenge will result in more of a disconnect than anything else. For many of us, it didn't take long to get sick of the imposed isolation and the constant challenge to find the most basic things at the market. Whatever your feelings and philosophies about the last 18 months, I think it is a safe assumption that no one woke up one day and said, “Hey! Know what would be a fun social experiment? Let’s cut ourselves off from all support systems and see how long it takes before we feel utterly defeated!”. 

But this is precisely the challenge for communities that suffer from a lack of environmental justice where individuals are neither involved in the development of their communities in environmentally responsible ways, nor do they benefit from access to these developments. Whether we are speaking about storm water management, community gardens, plant medicine, or the urban tree canopy, one thing is clear - nature not only connects people to the planet, but it connects them to each other.

Let’s take a  look at one of the most prevalent environmental justice topics: the urban tree canopy.


The Urban Tree Canopy 

For years, studies have taken place to examine the degree of connection between a lack of trees and issues such as crime, mental illness, and a lack of investment or pride in one’s community.  Efforts to remove pavement and replace street trees are abundant all over the country. Why? Because an increased tree canopy can:

  • Manage storm water: If you live in an area prone to heavy rainfall, you may notice that flooding is always worse where there are no trees and only impermeable surfaces. This occurs because water cannot be absorbed back into the water table and the cycle of transpiration, evaporation, and precipitation is interrupted. Ironically, this can lead to dry, arid, earth. On the other hand, trees promote evapotranspiraton, which is the evaporation of water from tree leaves, so that the natural water cycle can continue to provide precipitation for crops without flooding. 
  • Improve habitat: Fruit and flower bearing trees invite birds and insects that are not only beautiful and educational to watch, but these little creatures will work hard to pollinate and keep our plants flourishing.

  • Reduce noise: Many urban neighborhoods also suffer from noise pollution. Trees can provide noise barriers between heavily trafficked or industrialized parts of cities and the more residential areas

  • Reduce the rate of health issues including diabetes: When people have green space to enjoy together, they get outside more. This means more exercise and more socialization, which in turn can reduce heart disease, obesity-related illnesses (especially in children), and even mental illnesses that stems from feelings of isolation and invalidation.

  • Even help reduce crime: The urban heat island effect is a nasty one. This is the principle that demonstrates how much hotter it can get in a place without plants and trees, and how the literal temperature influences the patterns of a society. It has been noted that areas with a more developed tree canopy benefit from the relief that shade provides in hot climates.
Urban Tree Canopy                    The urban tree canopy and the heat island effect.                  Image Credit: Santa Cruz Architect

This access to cooler and greener spaces tempers aggressive behaviors by providing both physical and emotional comforts to its community members. The presence of trees also serves to indicate a united investment in the community, by the community. The mere implication that a community is unified is often enough to deter would-be criminals from targeting the area.


Imagine growing trees indoors to then transplant for free or at low cost in environmental justice cities. Native and even rare varieties of trees can be propagated indoors to populate parks, line sidewalks, and even provide fruit. This is what TrellaGro LST™ can do. 

So while some may say Trella was born from Cannabis, I say it was born from a deep respect for the connection between people and plants. Think about all of the times you shared some Cannabis with some friends, broke bread with people you love, or enjoyed a walk in the park while exchanging friendly greetings with neighbors. And then think about the role that trees and plants played in helping you to make those connections. 

In the meantime, do us a favor and go hug a tree. 

'Til next time!

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