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Leafy Green Systems – CEA


Leafy green systems, vertical farming is defined as the practice of producing food, medicinal or other plants in vertical layers that are put on top of each other. The structures usually comes with indoor farming systems and CEA (Controlled Environment Agriculture). Capacities are changing as the aim of the systems changes, like residential use to commercial uses. Also plants that can be produced with these systems varies from fodder to vegetables which are products of leafy green systems.

Despite it is an estimations that the total number of plants is of the order of 400,000 species on Earth. There are certain “must” conditions for each plant that we call “optimal growth conditions” which means the best or most favorable point, degree, amount, etc., as of temperature, light, and moisture for the growth or reproduction of an plant.

CEA is a type of plant production which takes place within an enclosed growing structures such as a greenhouse, building or vecihle. CEA facilities may range from all 100% environmentally controlled closed circulation systems, to full-automated systems which controlled by computer for watering, lighting and ventilation, to low-tech solutions such as net or plastic film covered tunnels.

Crops that are grown such CEAs may very from food, pharmaceutical and nutriceutical plant applications. It can also be used to grow algae for food or for bio-fuels. Also we can name these systems according to outturn of the system like fodder systems, leafy green systems etc.

Purpose of CEA can be described as “production everywhere & anytime” without boundries of climatic, geographic, space and time problems. There are many types of CEA systems varies from DIY home leafy green systems like balcony or terrace mini units to NASA’ s high tech space researchs such as Mars colony settlement projects including leafy green systems to vineyards. They are all focused on to give optimal conditions to plants and get continuous and maximum yield.

CEA uses hydroponics to control plant production and there are many different ways of hydroponic production ’s sub branches such like aquaponics, aeroponics, ebb & flood and etc. These are the ways for irrigation and water control also comes with nutrition control through root system of the plant. Also there are many plants suitable for this type of systems like leafy greens, fodder, some berries, fruits and it is developing every day. Using CEA methods increase food safety by removing sources of contamination, and increases the security of supply as it is unaffected by outside environment conditions, and by eliminating seasonality create stable market pricing which is good for farmer and consumer alike for leafy green systems and other plant grow systems.

CEA leafy green systems, fodder systems and other plant grow systems are also can be organic. Some countries accept CEA productions as organic if it’s inputs are organic. Until fall of 2017, there were debates as  discussions, that the lack of soil used with these growing techniques means they don’t meet the USDA’s definition of organic, at the National Organic Standards Board which many countries follows as a guide. Through a series of close votes, the board — an advisory committee to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) — ruled that hydroponic and aquaponic products will continue to be eligible for organic certification. Hydroponic and aquaponic systems already qualified for certification. This vote didn’t change the standards in place but it is accepted by committee that but their increasing prevalence has made this standard controversial presense in the definition of organic production of hydroponics. There are many studies on organic production with CEA like leafy green systems, fodder systems and many other crops.

As temperature (air, irrigation and roots, leaf), humidity (%RH), Carbon dioxide (CO2), light (intensity, spectrum, duration and intervals), nutrient concentration (PPM, EC), nutrient pH (acidity / alkalinity), pests, air circulation controlled by CEA computer based systems there are also researches for smart CEA systems. As IoT with other science and technology develops day by day we are getting close to self controlled running systems for CEA. May be it is really close that we eat leafy greens that are crops from CEA systems which are giant farms on orbit.

Leafy green systems are most common ones of the CEA systems because of consumption capacity and short crop cycles. Like leafy green systems, also orchards and many other plants are possible with CEA but crop cycle period of fruiting plants takes more time and wintering period is also takes time. On the other hand leafy green systems are much more basic and available to control with smart technologies. Even you are in arid area or on top of a cold mountain if you have electricity and enough water source you can have a CEA leafy green system and eat fresh and safe leafy greens anytime you want. Or you can produce in large scales and sell out to market.

The two most common hydroponic techniques for leafy green systems as leafy green are Deep Water Culture (DWC) and Nutrient Film Technique (NFT). DWC also known as pond or raft system because of seedlings are planted  to holes on styrofoam board rafts and these rafts are floats in closed circulation ponds. With this system most critical point is dissolved oxygen amount of water. If there will be lack of water oxygen this may cause huge problems. NFT systems uses shallow channels and seedling are placed into holes on this channels mostly with netpots. There is a circulating water in the bottom of the channel like a film layer. Continuous flow of the water irrigates the plants through a slope given to a direction and by this way circulating water is collecting in to a storage and then turns beck to system by pumping. Because the water in system circulates NFT is the one of the  most water saving hydroponic production system. It is especially effective for leafy green systems.