PIP Indoor Tomato Farming Project

Generating Urban Food System Solutions

Program Contract

Dr. John Reich
jreich@foundationfar.org

Year Awarded   2022

Total award amount   $2,112,454

Location   Gainesville, FL

Matching Funders   AeroFarms, BASF, Fluence by OSRAM, GreenVenus, Priva

  • Urban Food Systems

Growing Flavorful Tomatoes in Controlled Environments

Controlled environment agriculture adapts and grows plants for indoor environments to grow flavorful, nutritious and resource-efficient crops. This farming system is a promising opportunity to sustain and develop our food systems despite climate change. Yet, knowledge gaps are hindering this potential. Scientists have only limited knowledge of the conditions popular crops need to thrive indoors, as well as the genetic advantages that can smooth a crop’s transition to indoor farming, knowledge that will help make indoor production economically viable for growers.

The current market for crops grown indoors is small, and historically, major seed companies have been hesitant to invest in genetic enhancement or specialized technology that would allow indoor cultivation. While this is changing, the result of this legacy is a gap in indoor production research and techniques. The Precision Indoor Plants (PIP) consortium seeks to build knowledge of controlled environment agriculture by investing in research to advance indoor crops with consumer-desired traits, such as flavor.

With this PIP grant, researchers at the University of Florida are defining and enhancing the physical and genetic traits in tomatoes that affect flavor and that can make them suitable for controlled environments.

Why this research is important

This research is expanding controlled environment agriculture to popular crops, while also making the crops grown indoors more desirable to consumers. Additionally, this research aims to capitalize on the advantages of vertical farming environments.

Grower benefits:

  • Producing crops on less land, often with fewer inputs, than traditional farming
  • Growing tomato varieties with traits suitable for indoor agriculture and in conditions that produce flavorful fruits
  • More quickly accessing new crop varieties that are designed for controlled environment agriculture

Research benefits:

  • Gaining new methods to accelerate the development of crop varieties, particularly crops that have been overlooked by the controlled environment industry

Environment benefits:

  • Reduced food waste
  • Reduced use of resources and inputs

Consumers benefit:

  • Year round access to flavorful, nutritious tomatoes
  • Reduced or eliminated supply chain distance
Consumers are generally dissatisfied with the taste of supermarket tomatoes. If we can deliver great tasting tomatoes year-round through indoor agriculture, consumers will consume more tomatoes and be happier and healthier as a result. Dr. Denise Tieman
Research Assistant Professor, University of Florida

Details About this Research

This research targets the traits, technology and ideal growing conditions that allow premium tomatoes to thrive in controlled environments. It is aiding the development of consistently tasty tomatoes produced through economically viable indoor production systems.

Objectives

To prepare tomatoes to thrive in controlled environments, researchers must first:

  • Determine the ideal tomato physical traits for controlled environments to optimize yield under a variety of conditions. For example, growing more fruit on smaller plants.
  • Optimize plant growth by growing tomato varieties under a range of different indoor farming conditions, including adjusting inputs such as lighting, temperature and fertilization.
  • Develop tomato varieties that taste good to consumers, which has traditionally been difficult to achieve in outdoor environments where breeding efforts have been focused on yield and disease resistance at the expense of flavor.
  • Establish knowledge for future breeding improvements.

How This Research Contributes to Our Missions

PIP is a public-private partnership to produce new flavorful, nutritious crops specially intended for indoor agriculture. This research is advancing controlled environment architecture to provide growers with new opportunities for farming with less traditional inputs as well as developing new varieties of crops appealing to consumers.

As a PIP grant, matching funds were provided by the consortium’s participants.

Want to do more to support research on flavorful, nutritious tomatoes?

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