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t us〓e of fertilizers and pesticides has done great harm to our environment,〓" he said. "It's high time we find a sustainable and green way to prote〓ct our food security." San'an Sino-Science was founded in 2015 by San'〓an Group and the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Botany. The 〓second-generation plant in Anxi can produce 1.5 tons of vegetables, suc〓h as lettuce and cabbage, a day. At full capacity, when the energy cos〓t is neglected, it can produce 1,000 tons of leafy greens a year in the〓ory, according to Li. "The high productivity is mainly because we try t〓o emulate the most ideal natural conditions for plant growth, and use t〓echnologies to cater to their every needs." Before entering the plant 〓fac3

tory, visitors must put on a dual-layered jumpsuit, goggles, a face 〓mask, rubber gloves and boots, and be disinfected from head to toe. Sne〓ezing in the factory is strictly prohibited. "The standard here is str〓icter than hospital operating rooms," said Zheng Yanhai, a botany resea〓rcher at the institute who works at the plant factory. "Because all the〓 plants are growing in nutrient-filled hydroponic solutions, we do not 〓want germs to get into the liquid and make plants sick." Thanks to the〓 clean environment, plants can grow without antiseptics or pesticides, 〓"you can even eat it frC

esh out of the bag", Zheng added. In addition t〓o sanitation, scientists also take temperature, humidity, air circulati〓on, light, carbon dioxide, nutrients and other elements into account to〓 create the "perfect environment" for growth. A tightly controlled env〓ironment not only maximizes growth potential, but also allows scientist〓s to create food that suits specific needs, Zheng said. For example, s〓cientists can lower the amount of potassium from lettuce for patients w〓ith kidney problems or increase zinc in cabbage for children by alterin〓g the nutrient solution and growing conditions. "This is the fundament〓al difference between a plant factory and conventional farm," he said. 〓"We simply have extensive control over how and when our plants can grow〓, and let nature run its course in the most ideal conditions." The req〓uirements for plant growth fall into two broad categories: phm


otosynthes〓is and soil nutrients. The sun accounts for 90 percent of all botanic 〓bioenergy through photosynthesis a process in which plants combine car〓bon dioxide and water and turn them into carbohydrates and oxygen. Sunl〓ight is a bundle of different wavelengths of light across a wide spectr〓um from ultraviolet to infrared. Plants are "picky eaters that favor b〓lue andc

red lights", Li said. "If we can figure out what ratio and comb〓ination of lights are best suited for each plant's growth, then we can 〓change or create LED lights that shine at that specific intensity and s〓pectrum, saving lots of energy in the process," he added. While blue a〓nd red lights are the "meat and potatoes" of a plant's growth, scientis〓ts notice other spectrums of light also play a subtle role in maximizin〓g growth and quality. For example, scientists discovered that adding s〓ome green light to the red-blue recipe could help some vegetables grow,〓 while too much green light puts plants into hibernation, although this〓 is helpful for the plant's nutrient build up. "Mimicking sunlight usi〓ng LED is very energy intensive," Li said. "At the end of the day, whoe〓ver has the most energy-efficient and productive light recipe wins." W〓hile plant growth mostly relies on light, war


ter and carbon dioxide, it 〓still needs some trace elements from soil or fertilizers to be healthy.〓 In the case of plant factories, hydroponic nutrient solutions infused 〓with 17 essential elements ranging from nitrogen to calcium have replac〓ed the tilted soil. "The content of the nutrient solution is also tail〓ored to suit the plant's specific needs," said Pei Kequan,5

a research d〓irector at the factory. Unlike the trace elements from fertilizers, whi〓ch are locked in big compound molecules, "the nutrients in the solution〓 are broken into small molecules, meaning the plant can absorb them eas〓ier and grow faster while keeping its nutrient value and taste". It ta〓kes about 20 days for a sapling to reach maturity in the lab, but 40 to〓 60 days in a conventional farm. This means scientists can reap more th〓an a dozen harvests of produce each year, compared with one to two harv〓ests from a conventional farms, depending on the weather conditions, he〓 said. Moreover, scientists at the facility have built the infrastruct〓ure to monitor the elements in the solution. Once an element is deplete〓d, scientist can add the missing nutrient and reuse the solution wZ

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