New Benchmarking Report Validates Water Savings Potential of CEA Production

Resource Innovation Institute (RII), a not-for-profit, public-private partnership, has announced the availability of its “Controlled Environment Agriculture Energy & Water Benchmarking Report: Establishing Preliminary Benchmarks” report. The report is a deliverable to USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) under the Conservation Innovation Grant-funded project titled, Data-Driven Market Transformation for Efficient Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA).

The chief highlight of the report is that it validates the water savings potential of CEA. The report can be downloaded from RII’s resource catalog here.

“The water savings potential of CEA is real. It is clear in the data. And circularity best practices drive that outcome” says Derek Smith, Executive Director of Resource Innovation Institute. “This report provides an important view of how resources are used inside a range of controlled environments found in today’s evolving agricultural landscape. Yet it’s just a starting point. We need significantly more research at a crop and climate zone level, and related to technologies and practices, to really determine the most energy and water efficient pathways forward.

The CEA Energy & Water Benchmarking Report offers a comprehensive look at CEA benchmarking, and reveals key findings, including:

  • Validates the water savings and water quality potential of CEA, where it has been shown that water circularity strategies can result in greater than 90% water savings compared to common field farming benchmarks.
  • Outlines that, unlike field farms, CEA facilities include processing, packing, and storage steps, each requiring energy consumption.
  • Determines that there is no typical CEA facility, and therefore determines a range of efficiency performance across differing facility sizes, production methods and business models.
  • Demonstrates that CEA facilities improve their energy productivity and efficiency year over year as growers refine their operations, particularly with support from utilities and governments.

“These findings would not be possible without the transparency and leadership of the farms who trusted the confidentiality of our benchmarking process,” Smith says. “It is leaders like these who are enabling CEA to advance its resilience potential.”

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The CEA Energy & Water Benchmarking Report is the result of a two-year research project collecting, standardizing, and analyzing utility and fuel bills from the operations of 12 leading greenhouse and indoor farms via RII’s PowerScore benchmarking platform. The report is available for free download on the Resource Innovation Institute library, which also contains RII’s recently released Water Circularity Best Practices Guide for Controlled Environment Agriculture Operations.

The farms who helped shape the report include:

  • 80 Acres Farms
  • AppHarvest
  • Bowery Farming
  • Bushel Boy
  • Finn & Roots
  • Little Leaf Farms
  • Local Bounti
  • Planted Detroit
  • Pure Green Farms
  • Square Roots
  • Vertical Harvest

Reviewers of the report include:

  • Hannah Bouline, Vertical Harvest
  • Kathy Flores, Revol Greens
  • Laura Hann, Local Bounti
  • Kale Harbick, USDA Agricultural Research Service
  • Gary Hilberg, Local Bounti
  • Kasey Holland, DesignLights Consortium
  • James Lloyd Jones, Jones Food Co.
  • Dr. Neil Mattson, School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University
  • Matthew Meisel, Little Leaf Farms
  • Colin O’Neil, Bowery Farming
  • Tom Stenzel, CEA Alliance
  • Mike Waite, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
  • Annie Wissemeier, 80 Acres Farms

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