Growing Vegetables With Electricity: China Is Doing It

It’s a country with the world’s largest growing population, which means figuring out sustainability, along with new ways to grow food for that process.

The Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, along with other Chinese government research, has published findings that took almost three decades of study that scientists are calling a breakthrough in vegetation growth. The answer: growing vegetables with electricity. 

The method consists of growing vegetables under bare copper wire along the greenhouse roofing. The copper wires are situated 10 feet above the ground, generating 50,000 volts of electricity (about 400 times the standard residential voltage!)

These “electricity farms” are able to produce 20-30% more vegetation, decrease pesticide use by 70-100%, and  decrease the amount of fertilizer needed by 20%.

Growing vegetables with electricity has proved a healthier form of farming as well. The electricity is able to kill certain bacteria and diseases found in the soil and air. Because of the process, photosynthesis and CO2 absorption increase as well.


Growing Vegetables With Electricity Isn’t New For China

Like mentioned earlier, it’s been almost three decades of experimenting with electricity for plant growth. China’s government started funding in 1990, some time after the word began in other countries about ‘electro culture’, which was as early as the 1900’s. It was China’s lead that made the industry explode in the country, going from laboratory to the actual farm.


Costs To Produce Vegetation With Electricity

One of Beijing’s largest vegetable producers, Yufa Jingnan Vegetable Production and Sales, is a part of the program responsible for experimenting with electrifying vegetation growth. They have been with the program now since 2014. 

Senior technician, He Feng of Yufa Vegetable Production and Sales, said that the most expensive cost is the installation of the equipment for the greenhouses, which costs tens of thousands of yuan. He said if it weren’t government funded, they wouldn’t be able to do it. 

Other than the initial setup for the greenhouses, the cost of electricity is next to nothing. One hectare of electrified greenhouse (which is equivalent to almost 2.5 acres) needs 15 kWh of electricity to run per day. That’s only half of what your average American household family uses. 


Results From Growing Vegetables With Electricity

Yufa Jingnan Vegetable Production and Sales reported that in just 2 years, vegetables had brought in extra revenue of nearly 1.2 million yuan, which is about $175,000 in the US.

The big question is: does the electricity for growth do any harm?

Professor Liu Binjiang, government agriculture scientist and one of the leading members of the project, said the electric current flowing through the wires is lower than that of a smartphone cable. He then went on to state that it does no harm to the plants or to people standing near the greenhouses.

According to Professor Liu Binjiang, the area devoted to growing vegetation with electricity in China is now growing strong, from 1,000 to 1,300 hectares per year. At this rate, the next 12 months could see up to 40% growth in ‘electro culture farming’.