Is CEA right for you?
Pros and Cons of Controlled Environment Agriculture
Just the other day, we posted a video showing off a brief introduction to Controlled Environment Agriculture. It got a lot of love, and so we wanted to follow it up with a bit more information for people looking to learn about the fundamentals of Controlled Environment Agriculture, as well as the pros and cons.
What is Controlled Environment Agriculture? (CEA)
Controlled Environment Agriculture can refer to any number of technologies but generally refers to growing in a greenhouse, indoors or anywhere that the growing environment can be manipulated. CEA helps farmers grow even more productively than the natural climate of their farm would allow them to otherwise. In traditional farming, a grower is entirely at the mercy of their natural environment, but using technology, farmers can have greater control, maximizing the most beneficial aspects of the environment that lead to more productive, healthier plants using less pesticides.
What are the most common components of a CEA farm?
The most common component is a greenhouse, indoors or any type of shelter that protects plants from the direct effects of weather, the elements, or pests. Other elements include artificial lighting, temperature control, supplemental CO2 and air circulation, which can include fans, or even motorized vent panels built into the greenhouse itself. In addition to manipulating the growing environment, hydroponics is ideally suited to CEA because growers have full control over the nutrients, water and pH a plant receives. In this way, hydroponics offers the most productive way to continuously grow produce.
At the most advanced end of the spectrum, as shown in our video, many farms actually have computers attached to sensors that regulate everything and make adjustments automatically.
What are the advantages of CEA?
CEA can allow farms to dial in optimum growing conditions in order to operate productively year-round, regardless of weather or seasons. Especially in automated environments, CEA can allow a farmer to maximize their time by focusing on the plants, and not manually adjusting environmental variables. This can all allow a farm to produce more crops with less loss than it would otherwise.
What are the disadvantages of CEA?
The first disadvantage is the up-front cost of all the equipment. It can be quite expensive!
The second disadvantage is that, if a Grower is not fully and actively involved in the growing operation, a CEA operation becomes dependent on all the technologies involved. If something breaks and isn’t immediately attended to, it can ruin a whole crop! We recommend always keeping actively involved in the greenhouse maintenance, growing process as well as the sales and administrative side of the business.
Be sure to keep crucial backup parts on hand, keep the greenhouse on a regular maintenance schedule and your finger on the pulse of the market.
What are some examples of places where CEA is most/least effective?
CEA is most effective in places with extreme weather, especially freezing winters and/or hot summers.
Since CEA growing can take place almost anywhere, it can be most advantageous to grow close to urban areas where traditional farming land isn’t available. This reduces the carbon footprint and increases the freshness for customers.
It is least effective in places with temperate weather year-round or plenty of land space for growing produce. For example, we have very successful hydroponic growers all over the globe – in the semi-Arctic circle as well as many growers on islands around the world such as in Caribbean.
Should I invest in CEA?
CEA is not necessarily an all-or-nothing decision, and your choices should be determined by your market, local growing conditions, as well as your ability to invest! We at AmHydro have been designing and Perhaps you just need some netting to keep pests away. Perhaps you aren’t worried about temperature, but you want extra lighting to extend your growing hours.