Indoor agriculture maysupplement the economy
State renewable energy industry specialist Bonnie Lind believes that indoor agriculture can help diversify Nevada’s economy.
“Nevada spends approximately $2 billion a year out of state for its food, and that’s not all of it,” Lind said. “Nevada needs to self-supply. And this allows traditional agriculture to diversify their project to help a bad water year, and maybe this will give them some small piece that will allow you to keep your farm going and pay the bills without struggling. … We’re not looking to replace traditional agriculture. We’re just looking to supplement.”
Lind works with local farmers, distributors, restaurants, etc. to figure out who has what, who needs what, and so on. She helps these people connect and foster business relations. She said indoor agriculture would allow for all types of produce to be available any time of year and could allow the state to supply more of its own produce.
“Instead of it being picked, packed and delivered from somewhere else in three to five days, you’re gaining about three to five more days of refrigerator life,” Lind said. “While we may not get every single tomato on the strip and elsewhere, if we could provide some portion of that out of a $2 billion industry, if I could even take 10, 15, 20 percent of that, I would be pretty happy. That would be a lot of jobs and a lot more tax revenue staying here instead of going out of state.”
Indoor agriculture can mean a variety of different techniques, technologies and crops. Some indoor farmers in the state are using greenhouses with increased carbon dioxide levels to increase growth rates or using all LED lighting to specifically target crops in trays in a warehouse setting. Others are using hydroponics or aquaponics. The crops grown with these methods vary from beefsteak tomatoes and hot peppers to basil and oregano.
Nevada is especially well-fitted for indoor agriculture, according to Lind, because there are many individuals already working on these projects and technologies that would help them grow. She added that Southern Nevada also has a high demand for quality produce year-round for tourism, and Northern Nevada has a lot of the infrastructure needed to get it up and going with local farming groups and the “buy local” movement.
Indoor agriculture could also potentially be much more environmentally friendly than traditional agriculture, according to an online indoor agriculture brochure from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
“Indoor hydroponic, aquaculture and aeroponic agricultural methods consume less than 10 percent of the water required for growing similar crops using traditional methods, and recycle water to minimize water loss,” the brochure reads.
Lind is excited about the educational opportunities of this agriculture.
“DRI [Desert Research Institute] is doing a project with Wooster [High School] looking at growing food with hydroponics and without hydroponics, and the students are going to run it,” Lind said. “It takes everyone from engineers to people with a green thumb to people who can market and sell things like this … but we’d really like to see this as an opportunity to address food deserts as well as incorporate it into the schools so they can eventually feed themselves. … Plus, I’d like to see us build all these systems and then export them around the world.”