I'm writing the story for a game I'm making. I've got an underground farm powered by artificial lights. I was wondering which crops would be best as a food source and for efficiency. I've done my own research and have come up with quinoa, but I was wondering if anyone else had input. Thanks, also please give sources.

Edit: This is for a civilisation with a light source! So please don't mark this as a duplicate of that other question. That deals with a completely dark civilisation. This is asking for a crop that is space efficient and that one can survive on with little other food sources.

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    $\begingroup$ @YElm This sounds geared towards more modern tech though, so I do not think this is a duplicate. $\endgroup$
    – Joe P
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 11:52
  • $\begingroup$ If you don't think this is a duplicate, please state why, but the marked thread should give you plenty of answers. I agree with @JoeP that this doesn't have to be a duplicate, but it very well might be. As a gernal note, if you ask in more than one sentence, people can give you better answers. Perhaps explain why they are farming underground, what their goal is and so on $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 11:56
  • $\begingroup$ Also note that there are a lot of questions asking for food sources in caves or complete darkness. If you already searched this site but found no suitable answer, please consider rephrasing you question like "What crop could thrive solely under artificial light?" $\endgroup$
    – Elmy
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 12:00
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not really asking for complete darkness like most of the other ones I've seen. I'm thinking more that power and lighting isn't really an issue and was wondering which crops would thrive under that environment. $\endgroup$
    – Ruthacury
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 10:44
  • $\begingroup$ Your edit has place this in the reopen review queue, but, before I vote, I have to make a few points. 1) The marked-duplicate does not specify an absence of light; this was taken for granted and incorporated in answers. 2) If this civilization has the means to produce a surface-like environment through technology, then the question is trivially answered by referring to the real world and farming on the surface. So what, exactly, is the problem you are trying to solve that is not solved by the marked-duplicate? Because I currently see this as either the same or not a worldbuilding question. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 18:33

3 Answers 3


I'd wager an aquaponic or aeroponic system. Doing this significantly changes the crop you'd want.

For an aquaponic setup, fish could be farmed underneath the plants, and their nitrogen could be used for the plants.

Aeroponics though, make more sense here. The practice condenses extremely high amounts of food production in an indoor space, while minimizing resource use.

I have a very, very, similar setting to yours, for part of my book and the inhabitants use the three sisters method on the surface, and aeroponics in underground, artificially lit, caverns.

For the specific crops, you'd want tubers. They're more calorie efficient than most other things you could grow:

"According to the FAO, sweet potatoes top the list, yielding 70,000 calories per hectare per day, nearly twice as much as wheat—and far more than that if you use one of several fast-maturing varieties. Jeavons also recommends potatoes, leeks, and parsnips for those looking to maximize calories per acre."


But that also depends on whether they could be farmed using this method.

"The Advantages of Growing Aeroponically

Faster and more reliable growth: Plants produced aeroponically grow fast and relatively uniformly.

This can mean getting a jump start on spring planting, adding an additional lettuce crop during a season or being able to clone new plants from established stock quickly and with fewer losses.

Higher yields: Because plants have a smorgasbord of nutrients available to them almost continuously, they typically set and develop fruit quickly and produce more abundant yields.

Better flavor: Some growers and aeroponics enthusiasts report that aeroponically grown food crops have richer flavor profiles than plants grown almost any other way.

More flexibility: If you want to change the nutrient solution you’re using, it’s relatively easy to make a switch in an aeroponic system.

There’s less flushing and cleaning involved. Because plant roots aren’t installed in a growing medium, they are generally easier to inspect, manage and remove, if necessary.

It’s even possible to change from one type of system to another in process. Aeroponic systems are also easier to relocate than other types of indoor gardens. They’re lightweight, which makes them user friendly.

Space savings: By some accounts, growing a crop aeroponically uses as little as one-tenth of the space of growing that same crop in soil.

Practically speaking, there are definite space savings, but how much space will depend on a few factors.

You can produce plenty of clones and seedlings aeroponically, but growing a tomato plant to maturity will still take some room. It is easy to grow plants vertically using aeroponics, though, which can be a big space saver depending on your crop wish list and layout.

A-frame units are popular, especially for crops like herbs and salad greens.

Water savings: Some crops require a lot of water, and the prospect of saving nearly half on water consumption (40% or thereabouts) using aeroponics can be pretty compelling.

Cost savings: Because aeroponic systems use less water, less fertilizer and less space than other plant growing options, they incur lower operating costs over time."


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    $\begingroup$ Thank you very much for your answer, and it seems to be just what I'm looking for! $\endgroup$
    – Ruthacury
    Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 7:12

Famously, fungi. They're heterotrophic, obtaining all nutrients via absorption, so don't require sunlight or potentially expensive lighting rigs as plants would. For farming they would therefore require a replenishing source for these nutrients, which could be anything from manure to carcasses to refined volcanic materials.

  • $\begingroup$ While this looks like a good answer I would point out that the OP has already stipulated to artificial lighting systems. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 12:11

This is for a civilisation[sic] with a light source!

You need plants with high nutrient and calorie count per cubic meter. Thus, tall plants like wheat, corn and sunflowers where all the useful bits are at the top of a very tall plant won't work.

Plants that you can densely stack without require much vertical space are what I'd focus on. Examples would be legumes, soy, and vegetables.

EDIT: bonus for growing these squat plants in aquaponics systems.

  • $\begingroup$ That's not necessarily true. Companion planting matters here. Famously, the three sisters method plants corn, legumes, and squashes, all occupying the same space, and all filling a particular niche and dietary need. Planting these three, together, would be a far better use of space than a monocrop of something like lettuce. $\endgroup$
    – user49466
    Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ @user49466 that would certainly increase the nutrients per cubic meter. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 21:17

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