Regional CEA Expansion
Challenge Industries, Inc.
The Cornell Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) Program began work more than a decade ago, developing systems and methods for high quality, energy-efficient, year round production of fresh vegetables in New York State. Cornell partnered with Challenge Industries, employing its workforce of individuals with disabilities to grow and package vegetables such as Boston lettuce at its CEA greenhouse (under the brand Finger Lakes Fresh, or FLF). Challenge’s vision for FLF is to expand its product line, increase employment opportunities, and earn income to help support its program services. Nevertheless, the size of the current facility is not sufficient to support the long-term profitability of the operation.
Challenge Industries, Inc. proposes to evaluate the pros and cons of expansion on the current site versus a new business model of decentralized expansion with greenhouse operating partners. Challenge will complete a full analysis of the current business operations and suitability of the current site for expansion, develop a multivariate model for contrasting business options, structure and costs, and lastly develop a final business plan with capacity to adjust for future changes.
The investigators will evaluate the benefits of CEA development on dairy farms, wastewater treatment, and landfill sites. Either expansion option will employ 15-20 additional Challenge workers. This project will help Challenge facilitate establishment of quality standards and meet future food safety compliance needs. The project will enable Challenge to verify the projected energy use and cost benefits of the decentralized expansion option ($120,000/yr) as well as quantify the reduction of fossil fuel use (MJ/kg of product) and carbon footprint (kg CO2/kg of product) from renewable sources for operating the decentralized greenhouses. This project will provide NYSERDA a tool for supporting other New York CEA sites.
Center of Excellence for CEA Technology Transfer
Cornell University has produced many years worth of research to establish processes to integrate energy management with maximum vegetable production in New York. Implementing this research, and promoting development of a robust CEA and Modified Environment Agriculture (MEA) industry in New York is a challenging need that is critical today because few people in New York are skilled in managing a modern CEA or MEA facility. Moreover, there is no organized program in technology transfer, education, and workforce development in New York, or the whole of the United States, to provide regionally appropriate and skill specific CEA/MEA training in depth.
The objective of the project is to create a CEA/MEA center that will develop education, training, and technology transfer programs as part of the CEA program at Cornell University. Outreach will be supported by Internet presence, workshops in collaboration with SUNY colleges, community colleges, and the Long Island Horticultural Research Laboratory. An intern program for students with appropriate technical backgrounds will also be established. Outreach efforts will highlight energy management and load shifting strategies for CEA and MEA facility operators and electric grid benefits of load shifting strategies.
The overall benefits of this project will include an increase in CEA/MEA education curricula and qualified CEA/MEA operators and intrastate collaboration that promotes CEA/MEA agriculture.
Sustainable Urban CEA
Gotham Greens Farms, LLC
New York City comprises the largest part of the demand for imported fresh fruits and vegetables to New York State, a commercial sector worth more than $1 billion. There is a significant market potential for locally grown produce, as well as the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse heating loads by locating the hydroponic growing facility on building roofs in New York City.
Gotham Greens will build a 12,000 square foot urban Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) facility on the roof of a Brooklyn, NY industrial building. The project aims to construct the facility in such a way that its operation is nearly carbon neutral, utilizing numerous technologies to mitigate traditional greenhouse energy use burdens.
Benefits of this project include: carbon neutrality, energy efficiency, urban agriculture (negligible transportation costs), job creation, innovative use of technology toward the economic well-being of the State.
Zero Energy Plasticulture High-Tunnels Agriculture (ZEPHTA™)
The problem addressed under the proposal titled ZEPHTA is the offset of carbon-based fuels in industrial agriculture including the planting and production, management, storage, shipping and distribution, fertilization and pest and blight control, equipment maintenance, irrigation, heating, and lighting of industrial agricultural practices in New York State. The opportunity that mirrors this problem comprises reduced demand rooted in local distribution and non-industrial production, non carbon-based fuel sources, Certified Naturally Grown and organic farming practices, and optimized first cost assisted technologies growing environments. This strategy can offset significant amounts (i.e., tending toward zero carbon footprint) of the carbon-based fuels associated with industrial agricultural production; accrue environmental benefits and support a sustainable economy; and lead to sound energy management while promoting local job creation and retention in New York State.
The proposed ZEPHTA Module facility is comprised of an energy-independent (grid-tied-for-emergency backup), self-irrigating, substantially self-lighting, passive temperature regulating, and fully portable agricultural system that can support locally-based agriculture anywhere in New York State. It is scalable from a single module to large-scale commercial plantings. The Contractor will design, build, and optimize the system to enable four-season growing with two crops per season, and monitor performance to determine energy usage per pound of produce grown.
Benefits of the proposed project include: system has the potential to become zero net energy (MJ/kg of product) and carbon neutral (kg CO2/kg of product), technology transfer of an innovative idea, and significant cost advantages over other greenhouse systems.
Demonstration of an Aquaponics CEA System
SUNY Research Foundation/Morrisville
Morrisville State College and O’Brien & Gere have designed an integrated aquaponics system which is comprised of a greenhouse facility using CEA principles, featuring hydroponics and aquaculture for year-round local production of vegetables and fish.
The objective of the project is to demonstrate the technical, biological, and energetic feasibility of an integrated aquaponics system that could be deployed throughout New York State. The project intends to test this CEA and aquaponics system, notably its potential to reduce costs and negative environmental impacts through shared energy requirements and utilization of waste products from one system component by another. The inclusion of O’Brien & Gere’s SourceSentinel monitoring system will be essential to the success of the demonstration, allowing for real-time control of greenhouse environmental and growth media conditions, including nutrient, light, and carbon dioxide levels. Outreach efforts will highlight energy management and electric grid benefits for CEA facility operators. Nelson Farms (Morrisville Auxiliary Corporation or MAC) will handle all food processing, test marketing and distribution to local markets.
Demonstration of technical, biological, and energy feasibility of an integrated aquaponics system; demonstration of efficient energy utilization for food production (CEA and aquaculture), processing and local distribution; production of high-value food products year round, in state, and with reduced environmental impact; eventual job creation.