Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Comparing the Environmental Sustainability of Vertical and Conventional Wheat Farming Using Life Cycle Assessment

Version 1 : Received: 8 October 2021 / Approved: 11 October 2021 / Online: 11 October 2021 (10:14:56 CEST)

How to cite: Sørensen, M.G.; Olsen, S.I.; Colley, T. Comparing the Environmental Sustainability of Vertical and Conventional Wheat Farming Using Life Cycle Assessment. Preprints 2021, 2021100153 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202110.0153.v1). Sørensen, M.G.; Olsen, S.I.; Colley, T. Comparing the Environmental Sustainability of Vertical and Conventional Wheat Farming Using Life Cycle Assessment. Preprints 2021, 2021100153 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202110.0153.v1).

Abstract

Main purposes and research question: Wheat is the second largest grain crop by tonnage in the world and the largest in Denmark. Given the observed, adverse impacts on wheat yields of climate change and the importance of wheat in the human diet, the purpose of this study was to use life cycle assessment to compare conventional wheat farming with indoor vertical farming using hydroponics. Methods: Life Cycle Assessment was used to assess the base case systems up to the “farm gate” for 1 tonne of wheat grain. The processes contributing most of the impacts were identified, and scenarios were assessed to determine how much the impacts could be reduced. Results: The conventional system outperformed the base case vertical system in every impact category, due to the electricity consumption in the lighting system. The scenarios included increasing the efficiency of the LED lighting and using 100% wind energy, but the conventional system still outperformed the vertical system by significant margins in all impact categories. This was due to the low photosynthetic conversion efficiency and the high energy density of wheat. Conclusions: Until significant improvements are made to lighting efficiency, the photosynthesis conversion efficiency of wheat, new wheat variants designed for vertical gardens and the sustainability of electricity supply, conventional wheat production will be environmentally preferable and vertical gardens would be advised to focus on food products with low energy densities.

Keywords

Life Cycle Assessment; Urban agriculture; Wheat; Controlled environment agriculture, Vertical garden

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