The Green Promise of Vertical Farms

Indoor farms run by AI and lit by LEDs can be more efficient than field agriculture, but can they significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

11 min read
Staff looking at a wall of basil.

Wall of Plenty: A wall of basil is bathed in light from LED tubes, which are optimized for this particular crop by Plenty's proprietary machine-learning algorithms.

Photo: Plenty Unlimited

I emerge from the Tokyo Monorail station on Shōwajima, a small island in Tokyo Bay that's nestled between downtown Tokyo and Haneda Airport. Disoriented and dodging cargo trucks exiting a busy overpass, I duck under a bridge and consult the map on my phone, which leads me deeper into a warren of warehouses. I eventually find Espec Mic Corp.'s VegetaFarm, in a dilapidated 1960s office building tucked between a printing plant and a beer distributor. Stepping inside the glass-walled lobby on the second floor, I see racks upon racks of leafy green lettuce and kale growing in hydroponic solutions of water and a precisely calibrated mix of nutrients. Energy-efficient LEDs emit a pinkish light within a spectral range of 400 to 700 nanometers, the sweet spot for photosynthesis.

I'm here to find out how plant factories, called vertical or indoor farms in Western countries, can help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with conventional field agriculture. According to the World Bank, 48.6 million square kilometers of land were farmed worldwide in 2015. Collectively, agriculture, forestry, and other land uses contributed 21 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, per a 2017 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, mostly through releases of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.

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iRobot Crams Mop and Vacuum Into Newest Roomba

The Roomba Combo j7+ handles both hard flooring and carpet in a clever, non-messy way

9 min read
A round black robot vacuum with a mopping pad that can move from below the robot to above the robot and out of the way

Not a spoiler.

iRobot

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Converting Coal Power Plants to Nuclear Gains Steam

A U.S. Department of Energy report identifies over 300 coal plants that could be swapped over

3 min read
illustration of a building concept

This illustration shows TerraPower’s Wyoming project, which aims to retrofit an existing coal plant with a sodium fast reactor.

TerraPower

On a planet aspiring to become carbon neutral, the once-stalwart coal power plant is an emerging anachronism.

It is true that, in much of the developing world, coal-fired capacity continues to grow. But in every corner of the globe, political and financial pressures are mounting to bury coal in the past. In the United States, coal’s share of electricity generation has plummeted since its early 2000s peak; 28 percent of U.S. coal plants are planned to shutter by 2035.

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Exploring the Value of Power Modules

Learn how power modules can reduce power supply size, EMI, design time, and solution cost

1 min read
Texas Instruments

In this training series, we will discuss the high level of integration of DC/DC power modules and the significant implications that this has on power supply design.

Watch this free webinar now!

In addition to high power density and small solution size, modules can also simplify EMI mitigation and reduce power supply design time. And thanks to improved process and packaging technology, a power module may even provide all of these benefits with a lower overall solution cost as well.

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