East Lansing, Mich. — (WLNS):
A team of researchers at MSU has received a four-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study indoor production of leafy greens.
Erik Runkle, a professor in the MSU Department of Horticulture, was awarded the grant by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative. Others in the industry have matched funding, making the total grant top $5.4 million.
The grant will be used for the following: to determine the optimal profit based on yield, optimize indoor environment conditions and encourage indoor farming stakeholders to work with academia.
The leafy greens in the study encompass those such as lettuce and kale. Because it’s difficult to grow these greens outside, researchers have taken ab interest in growing these greens through a hydroponic method indoors.
“Indoor farming, which is also known as vertical farming, using LEDs has a lot of advantages,” Runkle said. “It takes much less space, there is more efficient use of water and nutrients, production is year-round, and there are virtually no pesticides. But there is little science-based information about best growing practices, and very little economic data around indoor farming.”
Runkle has been working with indoor farming since 2011 with a focus on seasonal plants. He has also been investigating how indoor farming could benefit food crop production.
Because leafy greens can grow quickly with a limited amount of space, they make an ideal fit for indoor farming.
Runkle will continue her study of indoor farming with researchers: Roberto Lopez in the MSU Department of Horticulture, Simone Valle de Souza in the MSU Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, and Chieri Kubota at Ohio State University, Cary Mitchell at Purdue University and Murat Kacira at the University of Arizona.