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The future of farming is moving indoors – the opportunity for geothermal?

Westland Greenhouse, Wateringen, The Netherlands (Source: Flickr/ Jeroen van Luin, Creative Commons)
Alexander Richter 22 Sep 2018

With technological advances, farming is changing and more and more moving indoors. With either small-scale urban greenhouse operations or larger-scale greenhouses, their operation is rather energy intensive, both for electricity and light, but also for heating - a big opportunity for geothermal energy.

With an increase in population and demand for localised food production, a recent article published by the World Economic Forum describes “indoor farming as the next big thing”.

Technological advances have allowed farming to be more precise, with large amounts of fresh produce being now produced in urban environments with minimal space and smaller amounts of water than on a traditional farm. But these indoor “farms”, be it on smaller or larger scale need both light and heating to be productive.

With the energy intensiveness of indoor farming in greenhouses, it is not surprising that operators are actually looking at different, clean and cost effective sources of energy  – both for light and heating. And there are plenty examples on how geothermal energy is increasingly receiving attention or is already used.

In Kenya, one of the largest flower producers Oserien is utilising geothermal energy both for heating, but also producing power with small-scale geothermal power generation. In the Netherlands, due to the increasing cost for energy, greenhouse operators are teaming up on drilling geothermal wells to tap that resource for heating. Iceland utilises geothermally heated greenhouses to produce vegetables year round.

In Germany, in conjunction with geothermal power projects, greenhouse operators are looking into the use of the resource for heating.

An article by BBC (linked below) describes efforts made in Colorado in the United States. At Pagoda Springs, geothermal energy is used not only to produce vegetables but also use the resource for wider economic development.

How far geothermal energy will be a common form of energy used in greenhouse operations will have to be seen. In what form geothermal energy can be utilised or compete with other sources depends on the location and on where resources can be found. But the examples mentioned above show that there are opportunities being seized and actually could expand beyond the countries/ regions mentioned.

Source: World Economic Forum, BBC