Ceres Farms paving the way for Controlled environment Agriculture

Ceres Farms utilizes controlled environment agriculture and hydroponics to bring you the heartiest salad greens and vibrant flowers year-round at affordable prices.

By: Sundeep Singh

Traditional Farms

If a farmer has $10, $9 of that will go towards soil care.

Traditional farming methods rely heavily on ideal weather conditions and soil health. When it comes to plant yield, it is important to have the right soil. The goal is to increase the following:

  • water retention
  • carbon
  • nitrogen
  • phosphorous
  • organic matter

Water Use Efficiency And Soil Health

Some strategies traditional farmers use to increase water infiltration, decrease evaporation, and decrease leakage are applying residue cover, conservation tillage, and the incorporation of more soil organic matter. To utilize residue cover, the farmer leaves behind plant matter after harvesting or processing. The plant matter decreases the amount of direct sunlight hitting the soil and in turn, increase the soil's moisture levels by limiting water evaporation. To improve water infiltration, farmers till leftover plant matter from the last growing season into the soil in a practice called conservation tillage. This practice maintains soil structure and complexity allowing water to effectively seep into the earth while also increasing the overall amount of carbon available to the plants. The previous two practices will naturally increase the soil's organic matter but farmers can supplement this by using soil amendments such as livestock manure or compost. By doing this, the soil is able to retain water more effectively.

This is an example of using leftover plant matter to cover soil for the purpose of water retention. This method has the added benefit of weed suppression.

For greater yields, plants need an ample supply of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous. Maximizing carbon organically can take anywhere from 5 to 50 years. This can be done by adding high level biomasses to the soil such as mulch, manure, and biosolids. It is also important to diversify the cropping system to incorporate many different forms of carbon to enhance diversity of soil microorganisms and internal carbon cycling. Conservation tillage, as mentioned above, also helps with carbon content by promoting microbial activity in the long run. This, along with other water conservation techniques, helps prevent the loss of not just carbon but also nitrogen and phosphorous via the prevention of water leakage.

The Ceres Process

Industrial engineering, biosensor, and solar technology allows us to cheaply grow quality organic produce without having to rely on GMOs or pesticides.

As you can see, a lot more work goes into producing the food you eat than you may have realized. With the rate of technological developments, we thought it no longer made sense to grow salad-greens or flowers on arable land that could, instead, grow crops with complex root structures that support larger foods such as melons, grains, and tree crops. Let's put our infertile land to use.

What Does Ceres Do Differently?

  • By growing indoors with the use of modern-day technology, we can efficiently distribute light, water, and nutrients to maximize growth and development.
  • We rely on automated systems to notify our proprietary software when a plant needs more water, nutrients, or light.
  • Less human intervention means lower labor costs. This allows us to sell our produce at affordable rates without having to sacrifice quality and it helps us remain competitive in the long-run.
  • Our hydroponics system gets rid of the need for soil, saving us years of hard work trying to increase soil organic matter and water retention. This system also has the added benefit of being able to grow healthy crops anywhere in the world regardless of weather or soil conditions.
  • Nutrients are delivered to the roots of our plants through a stream of recycled water. If the plants need more nutrients, we simply increase the mixture in our water and get immediate results. No more need for tillage.

The Impact

It's the responsible thing to do.

The United Nations Department of Economics and Social Affairs predicts that the world population will increase by 3 billion by 2050, it is important for us to reconsider our land use. By growing flowers and salad greens indoors, we free up arable land that can now be used to grow intensive crops that need wide open land such as maize.

Source: United Nations Department of Economics and Social Affairs, Population Division (2015)

The Benefits:

  • Our system allows us to recycle 90% of our water making our food systems sustainable.
  • We use a mix of solar and grid energy allowing us the profitability to pave the way to being completely reliant on solar energy.
  • By not relying on soil, we are able to set up shop in places that require humanitarian efforts. Most relief efforts are aimed at helping locals in the short-run, Ceres can help locals for years to come by educating locals about our systems and employing them to maintain the vertical farm right there in their own village or town.
  • Ceres can sidestep the entire argument of GMOs safety and pesticide use since plants will be grown in a controlled lab environment limiting exposure to diseases and pests.

The Design

Ceres Farms will start off with two structures, one will be for vegetables while the other will be for flower production.

Floral Production

This is a crude render of the floral growing platform. In this drawing, you can see the irrigation, OMC, and lighting setup.

The design above represents the model that Ceres will use for floral production. The black lines represent the the growing table and the overhead multipurpose claw (OMC) that will handle transplants. The red dot is the claw itself which will also house a camera to monitor plant growth. The green lines will be where the lines of flowers will be planted into gaps in the table. The blue represents the irrigation that will be hooked up to the underside of the table. This is also how the nutrients will be distributed to the plants. The thick yellow lines on the OMC represent the placement of the LED strips that will provide 100% of the lighting the plants will need.

This entire system can be scaled up and stacked on top of more growing tables. The system will be able to rotate tables similar to NYC car elevator parking lots. Once a table is ready to harvest, a farmer will lower the appropriate table for easy access.

The growing tables will be densely packed similar to these cars in a NYC car elevator parking lot to maximize indoor warehouse space.

Because floral production will provide the bulk of our initial profit, we felt the need to design our own flatbed growing system for flowers. Since the value of flowers come from the aesthetics of the crop, we felt that existing systems sold by other companies would go against the phototropic nature of plants. Phototropism is the natural tendency for plants to maximize light exposure by moving towards the light. Most existing growing systems sold by other companies have the crops growing out of a wall which would cause our flowers to grow irregularly lowering their aesthetic value.

Vegetable Production

Initially, Ceres Farms will use ready made shipping containers from Freight Farms for its vegetable production.

This is an example of a unit provided by Freight Farms.

Vegetables will be grown vertically as shown the picture above. LED lights will be hanging alongside the columns of vegetables to maximize light exposure. These units provide everything needed to start growing but Ceres will only use the hardware provided. The software will be proprietary to allow for unified growing and management between flower and vegetable production.

The Goal

With a system such as this, we can begin to address our global food security issues. Since 80% of our arable land is already in use, it is critical for us to open up as much of our land to crops that cannot be grown indoors and move the production of greens and flowers to infertile areas with the use of this technology. Ceres Farms hopes to pave the way towards sustainable controlled environment agriculture for other farmers and corporations.

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