An insulated shipping container outfitted with a complete hydroponic growing system that will provide numerous Minnesotans with fresh, leafy greens year-round reached its destination Wednesday, Jan. 15.
Central Lakes College’s (CLC) Ag and Energy Center in Staples is the new home of ‘Sota Grown, a collaborative indoor agriculture project between Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative (TWEC), Lakewood Health System (LHS), Great River Energy (GRE), the Electric Research Power Institute (EPRI) and the college.
Following installation of the container farm, CLC students will receive hands-on training to plant, maintain and harvest the growing crops—the first of which will be kale, ready to be harvested 10 weeks from planting. The kale will then be delivered to LHS for its “Food Farmacy” program that feeds more than 600 people monthly.
GRE, TWEC and EPRI will collect data throughout the process for electricity load planning, technology evaluation, and beneficial rate design analysis.
“Efficiencies with indoor food production and hydroponics will be critical as we look to feeding a growing global population that will surpass 9 billion in a few decades,” said CLC’s Dean of Agriculture Studies Keith Olander.
The ‘Sota Grown project is part of a national indoor crop production demonstration effort that looks at how using efficient electricity, technology, plant sciences and control solutions to create microclimates can produce ideal conditions for plant growth, yield, quality and consistency.
Growing produce locally for area communities will also reduce distance to market—a significant factor for Todd and Wadena counties since they are impacted by food deserts—thereby reducing net greenhouse gas emissions. Leafy greens generally travel an average of 2,000 miles before reaching a store.
A ribbon-cutting event where the public will be able to view and tour the container farm will be held this spring. People interested in following the process from seedlings to the first harvest can view the ‘Sota Grown Facebook page.
About Central Lakes College: With campuses in Staples and Brainerd, Central Lakes College is a comprehensive community and technical college serving about 5,500 students per year. CLC offers a wide range of pathways in both liberal arts/transfer and technical education programs. Students get a personalized education plan and are surrounded by faculty and staff who know their name and truly care about their success. The college aspires to inspire learning, advance innovation and transform lives. For more information call 855-8000 or visit www.clcmn.edu.
About EPRI: The Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. (EPRI, www.epri.com) conducts research and development relating to the generation, delivery and use of electricity for the benefit of the public. An independent, nonprofit organization, EPRI brings together its scientists and engineers as well as experts from academia and industry to help address challenges in electricity, including reliability, efficiency, affordability, health, safety and the environment. EPRI members represent 90% of the electricity generated and delivered in the United States with international participation extending to nearly 40 countries. EPRI’s principal offices and laboratories are in Palo Alto, California; Charlotte, North Carolina; Knoxville, Tennessee; Dallas, Texas; Lenox, Massachusetts; and Washington, D.C.
About Great River Energy: Great River Energy is a not-for-profit wholesale electric power cooperative that provides electricity to 28 member-owner distribution cooperatives. Together, our systems provide power to approximately two-thirds of Minnesota geographically and parts of Wisconsin, serving 700,000 families, farms and businesses. With $3.9 billion in assets, Great River Energy is the second largest electric power supplier in Minnesota and one of the largest generation and transmission cooperatives in the nation. Learn more at greatriverenergy.com.
About Lakewood Health System: Lakewood Health System (LHS) is an independent rural healthcare system founded in 1936 with a hospital and clinic in Staples, primary care clinics in Browerville, Eagle Bend, Motley and Pillager, and a dermatology clinic and skin and laser center in Sartell. LHS is a recognized leader in providing innovative, patient-based care including women’s specialty services, senior services, surgical and outreach care. This institution is an equal opportunity provider and employer. Lakewood Health System, 49725 County Road 83, Staples, Minnesota. Phone: 218-894-1515. www.lakewoodhealthsystem.com.
About Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative: Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative (TWEC) is a not-for profit distribution cooperative that is owned and controlled by the members we serve. TWEC is located in Wadena, has 8,900 member services in place with approximately 2,250 miles of line. TWEC’s service territory includes a majority of the rural areas of Todd and Wadena counties along with portions of Becker, Cass, Douglas, Hubbard, Ottertail and Morrison counties.