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Resource Innovation Institute Validates Water Savings Potential of Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) in USDA – Sponsored CEA Energy and Water Benchmarking Report

By August 9, 2023August 16th, 2023No Comments

Free, downloadable report provides first-of-its-kind utility bill level analysis of energy and water use in greenhouse and indoor farm operations

PORTLAND, Ore. (August 9, 2023) —  Resource Innovation Institute (RII), the not-for-profit, public-private partnership, announced today the availability of its Controlled Environment Agriculture Energy & Water Benchmarking Report: Establishing Preliminary Benchmarks. The report is a deliverable to USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) under the Conservation Innovation Grant-funded project titled, Data-Driven Market Transformation for Efficient Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA). A highlight of the report is that it validates the water savings potential of CEA. The report can be downloaded from RII’s resource catalog at this link.

“The water savings potential of CEA is real. It is clear in the data. And circularity best practices drive that outcome” said Derek Smith, Executive Director of Resource Innovation Institute. “This report provides an important view of how resources are used inside a range of controlled environments found in today’s evolving agricultural landscape. Yet it’s just a starting point. We need significantly more research at a crop and climate zone level, and related to technologies and practices, to really determine the most energy and water efficient pathways forward.”

The CEA Energy & Water Benchmarking Report offers a comprehensive look at CEA benchmarking, and reveals key findings, including:

  • Validates the water savings and water quality potential of CEA, where it has been shown that water circularity strategies can result in greater than 90% water savings compared to common field farming benchmarks.
  • Outlines that, unlike field farms, CEA facilities include processing, packing and storage steps, each requiring energy consumption.
  • Determines that there is no “typical” CEA facility, and therefore determines a range of efficiency performance across differing facility sizes, production methods and business models.
  • Demonstrates that CEA facilities improve their energy productivity and efficiency year over year as growers refine their operations, particularly with support from utilities and governments.

“These findings would not be possible without the transparency and leadership of the farms who trusted the confidentiality of our benchmarking process,” Smith said. “It is leaders like these who are enabling CEA to advance its resilience potential.”

The CEA Energy & Water Benchmarking Report is the result of a two-year research project collecting, standardizing and analyzing utility and fuel bills from the operations of 12 leading greenhouse and indoor farms via RII’s PowerScore benchmarking platform. The report is available for free download on the Resource Innovation Institute library, which also contains RII’s recently released Water Circularity Best Practices Guide for Controlled Environment Agriculture Operations.

Participating Farms

  • 80 Acres Farms
  • AppHarvest
  • Bowery Farming
  • Bushel Boy
  • Finn & Roots
  • Little Leaf Farms
  • Local Bounti
  • Planted Detroit
  • Pure Green Farms
  • Square Roots
  • Vertical Harvest

  • Hannah Bouline, Vertical Harvest
  • Kathy Flores, Revol Greens
  • Laura Hann, Local Bounti
  • Kale Harbick, USDA Agricultural Research Service
  • Gary Hilberg, Local Bounti
  • Kasey Holland, DesignLights Consortium
  • James Lloyd Jones, Jones Food Co.
  • Dr. Neil Mattson, School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University
  • Matthew Meisel, Little Leaf Farms
  • Colin O’Neil, Bowery Farming
  • Tom Stenzel, CEA Alliance
  • Mike Waite, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
  • Annie Wissemeier, 80 Acres Farms

What others are saying about the CEA Energy and Water Benchmarking Report

“Controlled environment agriculture is a critical part of the future of Pennsylvania agriculture. The report by RII further exemplifies the importance of CEA in Pennsylvania’s agriculture portfolio. CEA offers significant agricultural production while at the same time reducing water usage and nutrient runoff, both of which are critical for addressing our challenges with the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Additionally, CEA provides an ideal ecosystem where the next-generation agriculture workforce can learn how to utilize technology to augment agricultural operations.”

Russell Redding, Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture

“When indoor farms work together to share sustainability data, the entire industry benefits. This report is a great example, providing valuable early insights on water use and energy footprints. I look forward to the industry building on this important work and continuing to share data that helps set sustainability benchmarks and drive progress.”

Julia Kurnik, World Wildlife Fund


For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Emily Meshell at 318-564-8195 or

About Resource Innovation Institute: We advance climate resilience through accelerating resource efficiency in controlled environment agriculture

Resource Innovation Institute (RII) is a not-for-profit, public-private partnership advancing climate resilience. RII provides resource efficiency education, training and data-driven verification, in collaboration with CEA producers, researchers, governments, utilities, and the design & construction sector. Visit our website at Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.