Newbean Capital and Upgrown Farming Co. have written a white paper on why policymakers should focus on indoor agriculture and how in can be incorporated into policy on local, national and supranational levels.
Excerpt from Developing Policy for Indoor Agriculture
As a new industry develops, it reaches a tipping point where it can no longer operate under the radar and where its incorporation into the policy frameworks that govern most economies is key to it flourishing. Indoor agriculture – the practice of growing crops and raising fish in soilless systems in warehouses, greenhouses and containers – has reached that tipping point, becoming an increasingly important part of the global food supply chain.
When we began researching this paper, we expected to find many examples of indoor agriculture policy on which we could draw, but that has not been the case. In fact, a common experience for start-up farmers was to find that they needed to work with local authorities to educate policy makers and then aid them in establishing ground rules for indoor farms in their jurisdiction.
There are several reasons for the omission of indoor agriculture from policy. It is a relatively young industry; the bulk of global vertical farm and plant factory capacity has been added over the past three years, so many local jurisdictions have seen only a few applications. Agriculture has been mostly a rural pursuit in developed countries at least, whereas indoor agriculture is more likely to be sited in urban and peri-urban areas. Many policymakers aren’t familiar with the industry.
The impact of this deficit is multifaceted. It deters some potential farmers from entering the market, it slows farm start-up for others and makes this start-up more expensive once legal and compliance costs are covered. Over time, it makes farmers less profitable and less likely to invest, eschewing the optimal solution for the least risky one each time in case it run afoul of ill-defined policies. Further, it all too often means that indoor farmers are locked out of access to the government support enjoyed by their outdoor and urban farming peers.
There are multiple reasons to include indoor agriculture in policy; food security, public health, economic development and diversification, workforce development, sustainability practices and urban regeneration. There is an imperative to develop policy now as the public is beginning to inquire about the industry without the benefit of plentiful credible information sources.
Local regulations need to be amended to accommodate indoor farms. At a national government level, indoor agriculture could most benefit from the legal recognition that allows for economic subsidies and public education. At a supranational level, indoor agriculture is most likely to be incorporated into wider sustainability policies, such as, those for Smart Cities or the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Stakeholders can aid policy makers by providing better information and data on the sector from which policies can be built, by creating industry standards, by aiding in educating the public about the sector, and by proffering creative farm funding options.
Download the full white paper here