Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)


“In commercial agriculture, CEA can increase efficiency, reduce pests and diseases, and save resources. Replicating a conventional farm with computers and LED lights is expensive but proves cost-efficient in the long run by producing up to 20 times as much high-end, pesticide-free produce as a similar-size plot of soil.  Fourteen thousand square feet of closely monitored plants produce 15 million seedlings annually at one solar-powered factory. Such factories will be necessary to meet rising demand for quality fruits and vegetables in places like urban China.”

– Science Illustrated, February 2011

What is Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)?

  • A combination of engineering, plant science, and computer-managed greenhouse control technologies used to optimize plant growing systems, plant quality, and production efficiency
  • Any agricultural technology that enables the grower to manipulate a crop’s environment to the desired conditions.
  • An advanced and intensive form of hydroponically based agriculture.  Plants are grown within a controlled environmen,t so that horticultural practices can be optimized.
  • The science of computer-managed greenhouse crop production that enables the grower to control a crop’s environment to the desired conditions.

Why is CEA important?

Plants are grown within a controlled environment, so that horticultural practices can be optimized.

The grower can control and manipulate a crop’s environment to the desired conditions – free of drought, pathogens , pollution and other negative factors.

More productive than open-field agriculture (OFA)

How Does CEA work?

CEA Systems:

  • Allow stable control of the plant environment, including temperature, light, and CO2
  • Provide separate control of the root-zone environment
  • Provide secure, healthy, and cost-effective year-round production of many premium edible, ornamental, and high-value plant species

Controlled variables include:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • pH (acidity or alkalinity of a solution)
  • Nutrient Analysis
  • Light
  • Oxygen and CO2

Where is CEA being used?

CEA hydroponic greenhouses exist throughout the world  Heated greenhouses are generally required for year-round crop production  Profitable if growing high-quality, cost-competitive products

Why do we need CEA?

  • Conservation of dwindling natural resources
  • Higher quality yields
  • Food safety
  • Food security
  • Optimal application for crops that are of high value to the consumer, but highly perishable in the grocery supply chain

CEA Benefits

CEA production systems:

  • Extend the growing seasons in many regions of the world
  • Produce horticultural crops where field-grown fresh vegetables are unavailable for much of the year

Why Not CEA Before?

  • Paradigm shift in the economy and the use of natural resources (compared to how we source produce today)
  • Change in consumer awareness and demand for higher nutritional foods
  • Historical barriers to entry (e.g., pricing parameters have changed)
  • Ground rules have changed
  • Extended learning curve
  • Recent technological innovation

CEA’s Future

CEA production systems encourage conservation and preservation of the environment, rather than the exploitation of the land and water  Offer many new alternatives and opportunities for tomorrow’s GLOBAL population

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