Changing with the Climate - Indoor Farming for Agricultural Revitalization


                                                                                                                                         by Sheri Lupoli representing Team Trella

“Look about you. Take hold of the things that are here. Let them talk to you. You learn to talk to them. - G.W. Carver 

Climate Change and What the Planet is Telling Us

Vegetable: Flooded Crops: Food Safety and Crop Loss Issues | UMass Center  for Agriculture, Food and the Environment

                                                                                                                                                                                   What flooding does to crops

Where I live in Southern New England, I am fortunate to not only have access to major cities, but I can hit the coast, the mountains, and the farms whenever I like. I am fortunate in that nature has been ubiquitous in every aspect of my life from the moment I was born on the Fall Equinox. I learned early on to live in harmony with the Earth, thanks to my ancestors who continued their urban-agrarian lifestyle in this country, and who taught me to anticipate changes in weather events before there was a 24 hour Weather Channel (did you know you can “smell” when it is going to snow? Or “hear” when the earth is about to quake? I promise you! I’m pretty good at it!).  

It was precisely the ability to speak the language of nature that kept our outdoor crops robust. The homestead provided what we needed, as long as we were as kind to the planet as it was generous to us. We could rely on certain weather events to occur during certain seasons, and could depend on the climate of the grow seasons to be conducive to growing not only local crops, but crops that allowed for a multi-generational family to enjoy the seasonal cuisine that they were accustomed to in Italy. I recall picking squash flowers in particular, and watching my grandmother batter fry them in the summer. 

In order to more fluently communicate in Nature’s language, it is necessary to balance optimism with respect.

When Mother Earth chooses to provide, she is more than generous. But when she chooses to remind us that we are taking too much, we can only defer to her strength, prepare for her frustration, and respect her boundaries.

I was told never to take more than I could consume, never to consume more than I needed, and to share what we did have with the community. 

But like most things, the tangible security of what we once knew and experienced has been relegated to nostalgic musings about the “good ol’ days”. The certainty that predictable seasonal patterns could yield enough fresh produce to sustain a family year-round has been replaced with concerns about where and if we might find what we need when we need it, and at an affordable cost. 

We See the Problem, So Now What?

It may not have been a prevalent notion in our minds forty years ago that even people in industrialized countries could suffer from a lack of access to nutritious, local produce. It was (and indeed, still can be) a difficult notion to accept that Mother Earth might get tired of giving unconditionally and might begin to show the strain. Compare this to the present time, when the concepts of “food apartheid” and “food desert” have become as much a part of the conversation about food access as the topics of “farm-to-table” and “certified organic” eating. Some scientists have even taken to researching food production in space. While this is indeed futuristic and exciting to think about, it is difficult to imagine how this would immediately serve food desert communities or address the relationship between agriculture and climate change here on Earth.

More and more, it seems that indoor farming may be the way forward. In our last blog post, we began to discuss the impact of climate change on farming and how vertical farming with CEA is one of the most promising solutions for maintaining and improving our food supply chains. We discussed automation and how technology like the TrellaGro LST™  makes it possible to vertically stack taller varieties of crops to optimize space and maximize harvests. 

Being able to produce larger quantities and varieties of indoor crops is only part of the indoor farming challenge. It is scientifically undeniable that climate change is upon us and showing itself in ways that are not exactly conducive to perpetuating our traditional, outdoor uses of farmland and methods of food production. Scientists and researchers are working with more urgency than ever before to simultaneously discover innovative, indoor methods for increasing food production to match the growing global population without exacerbating the existing environmental stressors on the planet that our current practices create. 

The Effects of Climate Change on U.S. Agriculture

According to the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit report on the Northeast:

Changing climate threatens the health and well-being of people in the Northeast through more extreme weather, warmer temperatures, degradation of air and water quality, and sea-level rise...Milder winters and earlier springs in the region are altering ecosystems and environments in ways that adversely impact tourism, farming, and forestry. The region’s rural industries and livelihoods are at risk as less distinct seasons lead to further changes to forests, wildlife, snowpack, and streamflow.

The Northeast has seen a greater recent increase in extreme precipitation than any other region in the United States—the region experienced more than a 70 percent increase in the amount of precipitation falling in "very heavy events" (defined as the heaviest one percent of all daily events) between 1958 and 2010. The frequency of these heavy downpours is projected to continue to increase over the remainder of the century.

I use this example because I can tell you that 2021 has indeed been a very rainy summer here, followed by increasingly hot temperatures that are sending folks to the hospital - never mind what this does to native crops. July saw record rainfall and flooding can waterlog crops, while unusually high temperatures forced many plants into an early, fruitless bloom.

Farmers in Connecticut couldn’t pivot quickly enough to save the literal fruits of their labor, losing tens of thousands of dollars in profits, wasted time, and wasted natural resources on outdoor operations. 

While this may be a very localized example, it is by no means a localized problem. Texas experienced its first deep freeze in decades this past February, devastating experienced farmers and young beginners alike. 

Meanwhile, in California:

A recent University of California assessment found that by the end of the century rising temperatures and related reduced winter chill hours will significantly impact key crops. By 2050, yields are projected to decline by 40 percent for avocados and 20 percent for almonds, table grapes, oranges and walnuts. Central Valley land acreage suitable for walnut, apricot, peach and nectarine will be cut by half, while acreage suitable for pecan, quince and chestnut will be cut by 22 percent. In the coming years, the increase in variable precipitation—from drought to floods—puts our agricultural industry at great risk.

Move it Indoors

To us here at Trella Technologies, it seems quite logical to look to vertical CEA as the next step in our agricultural, environmental, and socio-economic survival.  We simply must be able to grow what we want, where we want in order to provide our people with the food and plant medicine needed to survive and thrive.

Team Trella is here to contribute agtech solutions in direct response to climate change and its disastrous effects on the farming industry. As a Benefit Corporation, we wholeheartedly accept the responsibilities of reducing our environmental footprint and bringing plants to the people, rather than making the people come to the plants.

Let’s learn together, as a community of human beings, how to grow together in ways that rise to the challenge of climate change. Right now. Here on Earth. Because Earth is all we got right now, and she is more than enough. 

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