Glossary of Terms
Glossary of Industry Terms
Indoor farming exists at the intersection of a myriad of scientific disciplines from botany and biology to energy and engineering. Throughout the pages of this website, our business plan, social media, and online communications, you may come across technical terms that confuse, rather than enlighten. And so we wanted to make this valuable resource – a glossary of terms – available to you so that our information reaches you seamlessly and without making you feel like you’re back in high school biology!
AAA: the Autoridad de Acueductos y Alcantarillados is the principal water utility provider on Puerto Rico and that will serve as back-up water sourcing, should the farm run out of rainwater.
Aeroponics: the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil or an aggregate medium. The word “aeroponics” is derived from the Greek meanings of ‘aer’ (air) and ‘ponos’ (labor).
Agriculture: the art and science of cultivating the soil, growing crops and raising livestock. It includes the preparation of plant and animal products for people to use and their distribution to markets. Agriculture provides most of the world’s food and fabrics.
Agricultural model: also referred to as an agricultural system or agro-ecosystem, it is a collection of components, methodologies, and technologies that have, as its overall purpose, the production of crops and raising livestock to produce food, fiber, and energy from the Earth’s natural resources. Aquaponics is an agricultural model and so is traditional land farming but the two are very different.
AgTech: the application of technology – especially software and hardware technology – to the arena of farming. AgTech is an industry that encompasses diverse solutions to almost every step in the food production process.
Ammonia (NH₃): a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen, Ammonia is a colorless gas with a characteristic pungent smell. It is produced in soil from bacterial processes as well as by the decomposition of organic matter, including plants, animals, and animal wastes. Ammonia exists naturally in the environment and is essential for many biological processes, but it is also one of the most commonly produced industrial chemicals (particularly for cleaning) in the United States.
Anaerobic digestion: a sequence of processes by which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. The process is used for industrial or domestic purposes to manage waste or to produce fuels.
Aquaponics: the fusion of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics whereby the plant roots are submerged in a continuous flow of nutrient-rich water provided by the fish; all in a closed, contained, and climate controlled environment.
Aquaculture: the farming of fish, typically in a contained environment that is closed off to external influences and where variables like temperature, oxygen, and water quality are controlled.
Aquatic ecology: the study of relationships in all aquatic environments, including oceans, estuaries, lakes, ponds, wetlands, rivers, and streams. An ecosystem is a community of living organisms and their physical and chemical environment, linked by flows of energy and nutrients.
Basa: a species of catfish in the family Pangasiidae. Basa are native to the Mekong and Chao Phraya basins in Mainland Southeast Asia. These fish are important food fish with an international market. They are often labeled in North America and Australia as “basa fish”, “swai”, or “bocourti”.
Beaver Plastics Lettuce Rafts: are floating raft systems made with recycled food grade resins and are used to cultivate leafy vegetables and herbs in a deep water culture. The entire board is built on certified food grade resins, not just the skin.
Biodegradable: the breakdown of organic matter by microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi. Human-made products that are biodegradable are far more environmentally friendly.
Bioinformatics: an interdisciplinary field that develops methods and software tools for understanding biological data, in particular when the data sets are large and complex.
Bio-secure / bio-security: a set of preventive measures and protocols designed to protect living organisms, such as humans and plants, against disease or harmful biological agents.
Biotech: the shortened form of “biotechnology”, biotech is a broad area of biology, involving the use of living systems and organisms to develop or make products. Depending on the tools and applications, it often overlaps with related scientific fields.
Biosystems: any system of mutually interacting biological organisms. Biosystems engineering emphasizes the application of engineering principles to biologically-based systems (plants, animals, humans, and microorganisms) to create new technologies for the well-being of humans and animals, and the preservation and enhancement of natural resources and the environment.
Capillary Action: also referred to as capillarity, capillary motion, capillary effect, or wicking, is the ability of a liquid to flow in narrow spaces without the assistance of, or even in opposition to, external forces like gravity. Capillary action occurs because of intermolecular forces between the liquid and surrounding solid surfaces.
Carbon footprint: the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, or product, expressed as a carbon dioxide equivalent.
Carbon sink: any natural reservoir that absorbs more carbon than it releases, and thereby lowers the concentration of CO2 from the atmosphere. Globally, the two most important carbon sinks are vegetation and the ocean.
CEA: the acronym for Closed or Controlled Environment Agriculture or Aquaponics.
Coconut Coir: a natural fibre extracted from the outer husk of coconut and used in products such as floor mats, doormats, brushes and mattresses. Because coir pith is high in sodium and potassium, it is treated before use as a soilless growth medium for plants.
Computational biology: the development and application of data-analytical and theoretical methods, mathematical modeling and computational simulation techniques to the study of biological, ecological, behavioral, and social systems.
Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA): a technology-based approach toward food production. The aim of CEA is to provide protection and maintain optimal growing conditions throughout the development of the crop. Production takes place within an enclosed growing structure such as a greenhouse or building.
Controlled Environment Aquaponics: a technology-based approach toward food production of both plants and seafood. The aim of CEA is to provide protection and maintain optimal growing conditions throughout the development of both plants and fish. Production takes place within an enclosed growing structure, such as a greenhouse, building, and fish tanks.
Deep-water culture (DWC): a hydroponic method of plant production by means of suspending the plant roots in a solution of nutrient-rich, oxygenated water. Also known as raft/pond or float systems, this method uses floating rafts to suspend plant roots into a pond of water often 8-12 inches deep.
Dissolved Oxygen: a measure of how much oxygen gas is dissolved in the water; and the amount of oxygen available to living aquatic organisms.
Dutch Buckets: perhaps the most commonly used container for holding and positioning plants in an indoor growing system. They are an integral part of the system and contain the media in which the plants grow.
Ebb and Flow System: also known as the “flood and drain” method, this system works by flooding the grow area with nutrient solution at specific intervals, which then drain back into a reservoir containing a pump on a timer. This type of flood and drain hydroponics system is ideal for plants that are used to alternating periods of dryness to wet.e
Food miles: the distance food has to travel from where it was grown or raised, to where it is eaten by the consumer.
Food safety: the growing, raising, handling, preparation, and storage of food in ways that prevent food-borne illness.
Food security: a measure of the availability of food and individuals’ ability to access it. Food security exists when all people at all times have physical and economic access to adequate amounts of nutritious, safe, and culturally appropriate food to maintain a healthy and active life.
Food sovereignty: the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.
Fungicides: a specific type of pesticide that uses biocidal chemical compounds to control fungal disease by specifically inhibiting or killing the fungus causing the disease or its spores.
Green space: land that is partly or completely covered with grass, trees, shrubs, or other vegetation, such as parks, community gardens, and nature reserves.
Greenhouse: a structure with walls and roof made chiefly of transparent material, such as glass, in which plants requiring regulated climatic conditions are grown.
Greenhouse gases: gases that absorb and emit radiant energy within the thermal infrared range. The effect of this is the warming of the lower atmosphere, which, over the past century due to increased industrial activity, has contributed to global environmental crises such as the melting of the polar ice caps and more energetic tropical storm systems. The primary greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone.
Grid-tied electrical system: a semi-autonomous electrical generation or grid energy storage system, which links to the mains to feed excess capacity back to the local mains electrical grid. When insufficient electricity is available, electricity drawn from the mains grid can make up the shortfall. Conversely when excess electricity is available, it is sent to the mains grid.
Hurricane protected: a system or structure that is protected from the damaging effects of tropical storms and fully-fledged hurricanes. These effects include torrential rain, storm surge flooding, lightning, hail, and sustained winds of at least 74 mph and up to 156 mph (and even more). It is important to note that hurricane protected systems aren’t necessarily hurricane proof, which implies 100% immunity.
Hydroponics: the farming of plants whose roots are submerged in a continuous flow of nutrient-rich water, also in a closed, contained, climate controlled environment.
Integrated multi-trophic aquaponic system (IMTA): provides the byproducts, including waste, from one aquatic species as inputs (fertilizers, food) for another. Farmers combine fed aquaculture (e.g., fish, shrimp) with inorganic extractive (e.g., seaweed) and organic extractive (e.g., shellfish) aquaculture to create balanced systems for environment remediation (biomitigation), economic stability (improved output, lower cost, product diversification and risk reduction), and social acceptability (better management practices).
Jones Act: also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, the Jones Act is a shipping law that mandates that only American-made, -owned, -captained, and -crewed ships may transport goods to and from American ports that are not part of the contiguous US. This Act, which increases the cost of shipping, resulting in the higher price of commodities and oftentimes the reduced freshness of produce, affects territories and states, such as Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Alaska.
LED: a Light-Emitting Diode is a semiconductor light source that emits light when current flows through it. LED lights are much more efficient, power-wise, than filament light, using over 75% less energy than incandescent lighting. They also emit a light spectrum similar to that of the sun, making them an effective technology for growing plants indoors.
Mayagüez: the eighth-largest municipality of Puerto Rico, located on the western side of the island, and home to Fusion Farms’ pilot CEA aquaponics facility.
Microbes: a contraction of the word ‘microorganism,’ a microbe is a microscopic organism, which may exist in its single-celled form or in a colony of cells.
Microgreens: young edible greens produced from vegetable, herb, or other plants that range in size from 1 to 1.5 inches long, including the stem and leaves. They may be small in size, but they’re large in flavor and health benefits!
Moringa: a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree of the family Moringaceae, native to the Indian subcontinent, that has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties and health benefits. It also has antifungal, antiviral, antidepressant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Net importer: when a location, typically a country or territory, has a higher value of imported goods than it has for the goods that it exports over a certain period of time, it is said to be a net importer. This is the opposite of a net exporter. The implication of this term is that a net importer is in an economically vulnerable position, since it relies heavily on goods and produce shipped in from elsewhere.
Nitrates and nitrites: Nitrates (NO3) consist of one nitrogen atom and three oxygen atoms whereas nitrites (NO2) consist of one nitrogen atom and two oxygen atoms. The two are relatively inert organic compounds that occur naturally in the human body and some foods, such as vegetables. They also play an integral role in plant fertilization.
Nitrosomonas: a bacterial organism that oxidizes ammonia into nitrite in a metabolic process known as nitritation.
Nitrospira: a nitrite-oxidizing bacterium that is generally found in freshwater or saltwater. Nitrospira take up the nitrites produced by nitrosomonas and convert it into nitrates, compounds that plants use for food.
Non-renewable energy: comes from sources that will run out or will not be replenished in our lifetimes—or even in many, many lifetimes. Most non-renewable energy sources are fossil fuels: coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Carbon is the main element in fossil fuels.
Non-GMO: a term typically applied to food (plant and animal) that has not been genetically modified in any way. A GMO, or genetically modified organism, is a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified in a laboratory using genetic engineering or transgenic technology. This is typically to achieve or enhance a desirable trait, particularly size.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT): a hydroponic technique where a very shallow stream of water containing all the dissolved nutrients required for plant growth is re-circulated past the bare roots of plants in a watertight gully, also known as channels.
Off-grid electrical systems: when we talk about a power grid we’re referring to the network that delivers electricity to a home, business, farm, etc. An off-grid system is designed to help people function without the support of this network, instead sourcing power from, for example, the sun, a power generator, wind turbine, etc.
Organic food: to be clear, all food is organic (composed of organic chemical compounds), but in order to refer to food as ‘organic’ it needs to be produced by methods that comply with the standards of organic farming. Standards vary worldwide, but essentially organic farming features practices that cycle resources, promote ecological balance, don’t use pesticides, and conserve biodiversity.
Pathogens: in the broadest sense, a pathogen is anything that can produce disease, be it a bacteria, fungus, or virus, etc.
Pesticides: substances that are meant to control pests, including weeds, unwanted vegetation, insects, fungus, etc. The term includes all of the following: herbicide, insecticides, nematicide, molluscicide, piscicide, avicide, rodenticide, bactericide, insect repellent, animal repellent, antimicrobial, and fungicide.
pH levels: in chemistry, pH is a scale used to specify how acidic or basic a water-based solution is. Acidic solutions have a lower pH, while basic solutions have a higher pH. At room temperature, pure water is neither acidic nor basic and has a pH of 7.
Photovoltaics: the conversion of light into electricity using semiconducting materials that exhibit the photovoltaic effect, a phenomenon studied in physics, photochemistry, and electrochemistry. Solar panels are constructed using arrays of photovoltaic cells, which converts the sun’s radiation, in the form of light, into usable electricity.
PREPA: the Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority is an electric power company and the government-owned corporation of Puerto Rico responsible for electricity generation, power distribution, and power transmission on the island. Fusion Farms has a net zero agreement with PREPA.
PRIDCO: the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (Spanish: Compañía de Fomento Industrial de Puerto Rico) is a government-owned corporation that is authorized and empowered to invest private capital in order to establish trade, cooperatives, and industrial operations in Puerto Rico.
Renewable energy: energy that is collected from renewable resources, which are naturally replenished on a human timescale, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. These sources also typically don’t produce harmful byproducts, like greenhouse gases (as is the case with non-renewable energy).
Seasonality: a characteristic of a time series in which the data experiences regular and predictable changes that recur every calendar year. Any predictable fluctuation or pattern that recurs or repeats over a one-year period is said to be seasonal.
Self-sustaining: requiring little to no input, external influence, or intervention to survive and thrive.
Soil exhaustion: typically caused by over-planting/farming and the leaching of nutrients, oil exhaustion occurs when poorly managed soils are no longer able to support crops or other plant life.
Soilless produce: crops that are grown, usually hydroponically or aeroponically, without the use of soil to anchor their roots and provide them with water and nutrients. Instead, the plants are supported by grow beds and have their roots trailing in nutrient-rich water.
Solar panels: photovoltaic technology that is used to convert incoming solar radiation into electrical current that can be stored and/or used to power homes, equipment, etc.
Spectrometry: the measurement of the interactions between light and matter, and the reactions and measurements of radiation intensity and wavelength. In other words, spectrometry is a method of studying and measuring a specific spectrum, and it’s widely used for the spectroscopic analysis of sample materials.
Sustainable agriculture: the meeting of society’s food and textile needs in the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Practitioners of sustainable agriculture seek to integrate three main objectives into their work: a healthy environment, economic profitability, and social and economic equity.
The Internet of Things (IoT): a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.
Tilapia: the common name for nearly a hundred species of cichlid fish with the economically most important species placed in Coptodonini and Oreochromini. Tilapia is an important food fish in cultures around the world and a very successful species used in aquaculture and aquaponics.
Urban agriculture: also referred to as urban farming or urban gardening, this is the practice of growing or producing food in a city or heavily populated town or municipality.
Vertical-Access Wind Turbines (VAWT): a type of wind turbine where the main rotor shaft is set transverse to the wind, while the main components are located at the base of the turbine. This arrangement allows the generator and gearbox to be located close to the ground, facilitating service and repair.
Vermiculture: the product of the decomposition process using various species of worms, usually red wigglers, white worms, and other earthworms, to create a mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and vermicast.
Vertical farming: the practice of growing crops in vertically stacked layers. It often incorporates Controlled Environment Agriculture, which aims to optimize plant growth, and soilless farming techniques such as hydroponics, aquaponics, and aeroponics.
Waste management: the activities and actions required to manage waste (byproducts of human digestion, consumption, and industry) from its inception to its final disposal. This includes the collection, transport, treatment and disposal of waste, together with monitoring and regulation of the waste management process.
Water resource management: the activity of planning, developing, distributing and optimum use of water resources under defined water polices and regulations. Since water is essential for our survival it is imperative that we manage it responsibly and sustainably.
Wicking Bed: an agricultural irrigation system used in arid countries where water is scarce and in indoor farms. Wicking beds make use of water reservoirs at their base to water plants from below rather than above. The moisture is drawn up through the soil or grow medium via a process called capillary action or wicking.
Wind power: the use of wind to provide the mechanical power through wind turbines to turn electric generators and traditionally to do other work, like milling or pumping.