Auburn University College of Agriculture Uses High Tech Shipping Containers to Grow Campus Dining Room Products | national news
AUBURN, Ala., June 10, 2021 / PRNewswire / – Recycled shipping containers have grown in popularity in recent years, being converted into everything from homes to small stores, but the Auburn University College of Agriculture, in partnership with Campus Dining, uses them as stand-alone “vertical” farms grow products for use by students.
In April, the college acquired two Freight Farms shipping containers that were converted into technologically advanced hydroponics stations in which plants grow vertically indoors without soil, feeding on water and light energy. powerful LEDs.
Now the farms are producing the first crop of lettuce.
“This is the state of the art,” said Desmond Layne, head of the horticultural department. “We’re talking about going from seed to fork in four to six weeks, depending on whether it’s lettuce, arugula or some other vegetable that can grow in there. And we can produce 15 times more per year than we could outside in the exact same location. “
Associate Professor of Horticulture Daniel Wells taught a vertical farming course this spring and leads vertical farm operations.
Wells said the containers are fitted with a full air conditioning system, which includes air conditioning and humidity control. Because they are highly insulated, the system ensures the same climate 365 days a year.
The converted containers also feature an elaborate lighting system, giving all the light the plants need from two-color LEDs.
“We can do any number of colors of lights,” he said. “But it turns out that for photosynthesis, plants mainly use red and blue light. The good thing is that you can remove a lot of the spectrum from other colors, creating a lot less heat energy. . It’s very efficient. It means more energy used turns into light rather than heat. “
The containers also help control carbon dioxide levels, which speeds up plant growth.
“The ambient CO2, which you and I are exposed to every day, is around 400 ppm [parts per million]”, he said.” And that’s good, plants can grow there. But if we increase the CO2 to 1000 ppm, they will increase faster. And because we contain CO2, plants can really use it. And it’s not at all dangerous for humans. “
Wells and Director of Catering and Concessions Glenn loughridge Five years ago, he initiated a partnership between the College of Agriculture and Campus Dining through the Auburn Aquaponics Project, which uses hydroponics and aquaculture technologies to provide a system in which nutrient-laden wastewater from the production of fish are used as a food source for plant growth. Today, the fish resulting from this effort are served in the restaurants of the Auburn Campus.
The new vertical farms build on this effort.
“We are in the process of completing a $ 26 million dining room at the center of campus, ”Loughridge said. “I always thought we would have the opportunity to present produce grown here on campus in this dining room. In our biggest location, our biggest asset, we want to bring our A-game.
“This is a hyper-local supply, on campus,” he added. “Can you imagine being a potential student coming on tour, seeing where these products are grown, and then eating there? It’s incredible. We really think it improves our dining experience. “
The converted shipping containers were manufactured by Freight Farms, a Bostoncompany based in 45 states and 28 countries.
“There are a few different companies that do this,” Layne said. “But Freight Farms is the most sophisticated. They’re the ones that have both the best product on the market and the highest production of these containers. It really is the best of times.”
Adam lenhard, a senior amount specializing in organic farming technology management, said Wells’ course was one of the most influential courses he has taken at Auburn.
“It was very helpful, not only in preparing for the arrival of the shipments, but also in learning all about new hydroponic technologies and growing techniques,” said Lenhard. “After graduation, I plan to continue working with these types of indoor LED hydroponic systems. My main goal after college is to standardize urban hydroponic agriculture, to provide large and consistent yields of fresh vegetables and providing food to those who need it, do not have as much access to fresh produce.
Garden of transformation
The Vertical Farms are located in the 16-acre College of Agriculture Processing Garden at the south end of the university campus, near the intersection of Lem Morrison Drive and Duncan Drive. The goal of the garden is to encompass all aspects of plant-based agriculture, including everything from fruits and vegetables to ornamentals, row crops and more.
The Transformation Garden will present new technologies and the history of agriculture, as it envelops Auburn Old Rotation, a one-acre research plot established in 1896. Since that year, the historic monument has been the site of testing and promoting now-mainstream transformative ideas, such as crop rotation, cover crops and direct seeding and direct seeding. Agriculture.
Information on financial donations to help develop the new Garden of Transformation is available online or by contacting Philippe Cowart, Director of Development for the College of Agriculture, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 334-844-1198.
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SOURCE Auburn University