GREEN JUNCTION:Expanding area of agriculture science is vertical farming. BY JULIE PELLER PH.D

One of my personal joys in the summer months is watching the plants in my backyard garden grow and produce food. Of course, another pleasure is eating fresh food. I continually find amazement in the transition of a tiny seed to a full-grown plant. However, many unfavorable circumstances can disrupt plant development. For example, excessive rain in late June was too much for a few plants in the low area of the garden. Plants rely on a balance of nutrients and weather conditions for successful growth. Agricultural sciences, defined by Britannica as “sciences dealing with food and fiber production and processing,” are critical to ensure adequate food production for our changing world.

A newer, expanding area of agriculture science is vertical farming. The Indiana Environmental Reporter describes this as “farming that uses controlled environmental agriculture techniques, like hydroponics or aquaponics, to grow crops in vertically stacked rows with 90% less water than traditional soil-based farming. It also uses 75-90% less land than traditional farms.” In vertical farming, water is recirculated and delivered to plants in a closed-loop system. This indoor farming enables food to be produced locally, alleviating transportation, which offsets some of the higher energy needs. It is interesting to note that about 95% of vegetables are imported from other states and countries in Indiana.

In Portage, Indiana, Green Sense Farms has a research and development center to improve different aspects of vertical farming technologies. The company’s website explains their guiding principles of 1) a professional, scientific approach, 2) the continuous adoption of new technologies to optimize farming, and 3) growing food sustainably –to “produce higher yields in a smaller footprint using fewer inputs.”

With a growing world population and other critical challenges such as climate change, advances in agricultural science are of utmost importance for adequate, sustainable food production.

Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work

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