Seed World: Can Indoor Farming Feed the World?

Jan 18, 2023 | 5-Media, Industry Profile, Interview


The Center of Excellence for Indoor Agriculture | Philadelphia, PA

Summary: An article on food production and indoor farming by Melissa Shipman ( “There’s Room for Everyone to Feed the Globe“) was published on January 18, 2023 in Seed World. The focus of the article is on how indoor farms such as greenhouses and vertical farms can scale to help feed the world.

Dr. Eric W Stein, Executive Director of the Center of Excellence for Indoor Agriculture, was a contributor and talks about the profitability, sustainability, design and capital costs of indoor farms and controlled environment agriculture. A summary of his quotes is provided below.

The full article can be found at:


“….To start, success [in indoor farming] is based on unit economics and efficiency. In the indoor world, yield per kilowatt hour is the big number vertical growers are focused on, but Eric Stein, executive director of the Center of Excellence for Indoor Agriculture and associate professor of Management Science and Information Systems at Penn State, says many growers keep their operations proprietary making it hard to develop industry best practices. 

…and Stein believes there is a lot of room for improvement with the systems as well. “Design is really critical. I don’t think a lot of indoor vertical farms are designed correctly to really minimize those costs,” he says. 

Lighting efficiency continues to improve, but costs are still significant….  “LEDs are very efficient but you still need a lot of them. You can’t fool plants. We’re talking tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in energy costs depending on the size of the farm,” Stein says.

“….Stein says there were a lot of Silicon Valley-type promises in the early days, but that’s just not going to be a reality.  “You aren’t going to become a billionaire doing vertical farming, but when done correctly, they can produce healthy 15-20% return,” he says.

Stein expects the next few years to see more industry shakeout. “Some investors who have been involved are getting impatient so I think we’ll see some consolidation and more closures,” he says.  However, there is still a lot of potential.  “There are huge opportunities in cities like Philadelphia and Detroit where we can turn those decaying buildings and empty lots into spaces for plant production, but this will take enlightened politicians and perhaps partnerships with energy companies,” Stein says.

….“There is room for everyone, but the more diverse our food supply is, the better,” Stein says.”


To read the complete article:


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