Food & Drink | May 30, 2017 5:00 am

‘Plant Factories’ Churn Out Clean Food in China’s Polluted Cities

Researchers building urban farms, crop labs to combat contamination.

China Turning to 'Vertical Agriculture' for Its Food of the Future
A researcher transplants vegetables in a greenhouse atop the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science (CAAS) building in Beijing, China, on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

China is world-renowned for its ever-growing population—and its worsening noxious air pollution.

The latter has made it difficult for farmers to grow non-contaminated food, which is needed to feed China’s people and make it less reliant on foreign food trade.

So China’s experimenting with moving plant production indoors.

According to Bloomberg, some government-funded researchers are starting to build indoor “plant factories,” where they can grow foods like tomatoes and bok choy at a greater yield than comparably sized farm land. The plants are being grown via LED light technology, all out of the way of the poisonous air pollution. Enter “vertical agriculture.”

“Using vertical agriculture, we don’t need to use pesticides and we can use less chemical fertilizers—and produce safe food,” Yang Qichang, director of the Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development in Agriculture, told Bloomberg.

Given the potential for strain between China and big trading partners like the U.S., China might have a tough row to hoe going forward. But with a fifth of its land tainted by “toxins exceeding national standards,” per Bloomberg, these type of initiatives are almost a must.

Learn more about vertical agriculture in the accompanying Bloomberg video below.