Dry Nevada seeing green in indoor farming

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Don't be fooled by the electric green foliage and pungent scents at Ken Kesick's farm. It's not like most farms you've ever seen.

The basil and other greens that will soon be served on restaurant china are cropping up in a hostile, sagebrush-spangled desert where no more than 5 inches of rain fall each year. Instead of gently rolling fields, these crops are penned inside four walls, a floor and a roof.

Welcome to indoor agriculture, an industry that some see as vital for a growing world population, and one that Nevada views as an economic frontier.

"This is a segment we think has a lot of potential," said Bonnie Lind of the Nevada Governor's Office of Economic Development, which is in talks with 10 different agriculture-related businesses that are considering expanding or relocating in Nevada.

Couture crops like the micro arugula and micro basil at Kesick's Hydro Greens in Pahrump, or the mini cocktail cucumbers in Windset Farms' greenhouse in North Las Vegas, are helping to recapture some of an estimated $2 billion "leaked" annually from the state economy when Las Vegas' tourism industry imports food from other states and countries.

Nevada's existing half-billion-dollar agriculture industry includes only about 40 acres of crops cultivated indoors. The bulk of the ag industry is centered in the rural northern Nevada and is dominated by grazing.

State officials want to shift that balance to reduce the state's dependence on fickle tourism spending. Earlier this year, the economic development office co-sponsored its first indoor agriculture conference in Las Vegas that brought together about 250 scientists, farmers and entrepreneurs. Lind said a half-dozen prospects came from the conference or became more serious as a result. A similar conference is scheduled next spring.

Read the rest of this article, including a quote from Chieri Kubota, professor of plant sciences, at the link below.

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