Planting the seeds for better vertical farm crops

Strawberries growing indoors
Two big research focuses for PIP are preventing lettuce browning as well as creating better quality strawberries.

Humans have been farming outside for around 12,000 years. Over those thousands of years, farmers have stumbled upon or bred specific varieties of plants and seeds that do well in outdoor field farming environments. And as farming has turned from a local business to a massive profit-making behemoth, the process of developing the best seeds for quality, quantity and resilience has become its own inner industry. According to a Food and Agriculture seed industry report, the worldwide commercial seed market in 2018 was over $41 billion. 

As more farming moves indoors, researchers, startups and governments are trying to replicate the process. But instead of tweaking seeds so they are optimized for different weather and soil in the field, they are trying to create the best seeds for controlled-environment agriculture. 

One organization helping fund that research is the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR). Its Precision Indoor Plants consortium, or PIP, was funded with $15 million by the 2014 Farm Bill to create private-public partnerships that encourage industry-specific research. 

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