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Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2021 ASABE Annual International Virtual Meeting  2100053.(doi:10.13031/aim.202100053)
Authors:   Ronald J. Smith, Robert M. Stwalley, III
Keywords:   controlled environment agriculture, context, success, challenges, opportunities, barriers, vertical farm, indoor agriculture.

Abstract. Less than half of the world‘s land surface is suitable for crop production. Controlled environment agriculture (CEA), especially agriculture in, on, and around urban buildings, has been investigated in recent years to address current and future agricultural systems challenges. Controlled environment agricultural production systems can supplement specific niche crop production in various locations throughout concentrated human habitats. While CEA has experienced spectacular growth in recent years, there is limited work on context-specific CEA development and deployment. Numerous production sites are subject to constraints that can challenge productivity. The purpose of this work was to identify the factors necessary for establishing a CEA project and the challenges that these projects generally face. This work categorized CEA projects in general, and then, it analyzed each enterprise to frame success or failure. This research approach was exploratory in nature. Barriers to CEA project success were also investigated. Results showed that in addition to the technological requirements for success, CEA projects operate in socio-ecological systems that exhibit multiple context-specific forces. Barriers to CEA project success included: natural climatic conditions, physical infrastructure and services (space and water availability), socio-cultural conditions (consumer food preferences and relation to food production), and institutional conditions (provision or restriction of access to space and resources). These factors were framed socially (the interaction space, communication, and creating social capital), politically (local leadership and community organizations (formal and informal)), environmentally, and economically. Specific outcome analysis metrics describing CEA projects included: productivity, profitability, quality, sustainability, policy, power, diversity, inclusion, and equity. This work provides the foundation for future studies of what makes a CEA project successful and how that success is measured.

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