The embodied carbon emissions of lettuce production in vertical farming, greenhouse horticulture, and open-field farming in the Netherlands

T. Blom*, A.J. Jenkins, Riccardo Pulselli, A.A.J.F. van den Dobbelsteen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
66 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Over the past decades, various farming methods have evolved in response to the global challenges of increasing food demands, decreasing availability of arable land, and climate change. One of these new farming methods is vertical farming. To understand the contribution of vertical farms to future sustainable food production, beyond its efficient land-use and high yields, this paper evaluates the current carbon footprint of lettuce produced in an operational vertical farm in comparison to conventional open-field farming and both soil-based and hydroponic greenhouse cultivation in the Netherlands. The assessment includes the greenhouse gas emissions of the life cycle of the farm and the crop, from cradle-to-grave. An alternative scenario is explored to include the lost carbon sequestration potential by land-use change, identical packaging for all farming methods, and renewable energy
usage. The carbon footprint of the vertical farm was 5.6–16.7 times greater than that of the conventional farming methods in the baseline scenario and 2.3 to 3.3 times in the alternative scenario. The electricity demands of the vertical farm represented 85% of the carbon footprint in the baseline scenario and 66% in the alternative scenario, suggesting that a significant reduction in electricity use is required to compete with conventional farming methods from a carbon footprint perspective. If this could be achieved, vertical farming could become a valid component of future sustainable and food secure systems by its efficient use of land, high yields, minimal use of water, nutrients, pesticides and herbicides, and the ability to be located within or adjacent to cities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number134443
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Volume377
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Keywords

  • Vertical farming
  • Carbon footprint
  • LCA
  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Renewable energy

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