There are economic and knowledge-based challenges that must be addressed for indoor farms to be viable in the United States despite their potential benefits. A mixed-methods approach was used to identify the needs of specialty crop growers and stakeholders interested in or currently using indoor environments to grow seedlings, cuttings, and tissue-cultured plants. An online survey evaluated specialty crop growers’ experience with indoor plant propagation and assessed their needs related to improving propagation processes. A focus group with 19 participants was then conducted to further understand the needs for indoor plant propagation by stakeholders. Our findings suggest that industry stakeholders are largely motivated to adopt indoor propagation environments to reduce crop losses (“shrinkage”), increase productivity per unit of land area, ensure faster germination or rooting, improve plant quality, and profit from anticipated economic benefits. Research and education priority areas identified by stakeholders included economic costs and benefits (including capital investment and energy costs), improved crop quality, production time, uniformity, reduced shrinkage, and strategies to improve light management indoors. As suggested by the results of this project, a strategic plan encompassing stakeholder needs must be implemented to maximize the benefits and enable adoption of indoor plant propagation environments. A discussion about ongoing efforts to identify stakeholder perceptions with indoor plant propagation environments will be presented.
Dr. Celina Gómez is an Assistant Professor in the Environmental Horticulture Dept. at the University of Florida (UF). Her research focuses on developing innovative production systems for the controlled environment agriculture (CEA) industry, with an emphasis on optimizing economically viable practices for greenhouse and indoor production of ornamental and edible crops. Her current areas of research include plant responses to sole-source lighting, indoor gardening, and indoor plant propagation. She is the state representative for two multi-state groups that translate research outcomes to stakeholders: NCERA-101 (Committee on Controlled Environment Technology and Use) and NE-1835 (Resource Optimization in Controlled Environment Agriculture), and currently serves as chair for the latter.