Controlled-Environment Agriculture and the Geography of Food, Energy and Water Resilience in the United States

Research output: NRELPoster


USDA guidelines call for an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption in U.S. households to promote healthier diets. Access to fresh fruits and vegetables are especially lacking in food deserts and food swamps (characterized by a prevalence of food that is highly processed and lacking in nutritional value). Adoption of the recommended healthy diet, which more than doubles the consumption of fruits and vegetables, would have a wide variety of health benefits and would reduce the land footprint of U.S diets. However, adopting a healthy diet would increase phosphate and nitrogen impacts associated with fertilizers and pesticides and would significantly increase freshwater consumption and energy use because of the resource intensity of field cultivation of fruits and vegetables. The majority of these crops are grown in just a few states, including California and Arizona, which are increasingly impacted by climate change. In addition, rural communities are rapidly becoming food deserts, while food produced in these areas is transported long distances to market. In recent years, highly intensified controlled environment (CE) agricultural systems, (i.e., vertical farming) have been developed to provide fresh food closer to consumers. Fruits and vegetables, many of which are amenable to CE culture, occupy a uniquely impactful segment of the food supply-chain, including their value in improving nutrition for vulnerable communities. The objective of this work is to elucidate the location dependency of the energy and water impacts of adoption of distributed CE farming for an important portion of the food system.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePresented at Innovations in Climate Resilience, 29-30 March 2022, Columbus, Ohio

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-6A20-82104


  • controlled environment agriculture
  • food energy water nexus


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