WWF report details how stakeholders are putting research into action and ramping up environment-friendly indoor farming.
The St. Louis region is positioned to become the global centre for innovation in indoor soilless agriculture thanks to a cooperative effort from dozens of experts over the past two years. This work, which aims to realise the full potential of a burgeoning industry while benefiting the local community, is detailed in a new report released today from World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Markets Institute.
Indoor soilless farming has great potential to supplement the US food system and help alleviate supply chain instability, food deserts, and the massive environmental impact of traditional farming. But to fulfil this potential and grow at an accelerated pace, the industry must address several challenges including high energy footprints, affordability, and expanding beyond leafy greens. To that end, a St. Louis-based coalition of more than 70 professionals from varying industries has worked to establish a centralised base of knowledge and best practices and lay the groundwork for a new indoor farm where innovative ideas can be put to the test.
“These past few years we’re seen in the US just how fragile our current food system really is,” said Julia Kurnik, director of innovation startups at WWF’s Markets Institute. “We need new food solutions that don’t put additional pressure on nature and climate, and indoor agriculture is one with enormous potential. We’ve dedicated a lot of effort into figuring out how to accelerate the indoor farming industry in a sustainable way, and it’s so gratifying to see that research come to life in the St. Louis region.”
The St. Louis region was identified as the ideal base for these endeavours in a 2020 WWF analysis due to its unrivalled relevant science expertise in plant science, agtech, and bioscience, along with strong potential partners including universities, foundations, and grocery chains. There is plenty of unused or under-utilised infrastructure and capital assets that could be repurposed for or integrated with indoor farms to lower the environmental impact of the facilities. There is also an opportunity to benefit local communities by producing healthy food year-round in urban settings while also creating job opportunities requiring little or no previous experience.