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CEA Ongoing Projects


Center of Excellence for CEA Research and Technology Transfer

Cornell University Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering

NYSERDA supports the Center for Excellence which has an international reputation for outstanding research in Controlled Environment Agriculture, studying processes that integrate energy management with optimum vegetable yield and quality. The Center conducts workshops on hydroponic vegetable production for the general public, teachers and facility operators. Current areas of study include greenhouse lighting effects on crop yield and quality, disease management of hydroponically-grown spinach, and the assessment of energy intensity comparing different greenhouse configurations. Additional information is available by visiting the Center's website.Link opens in new window - close new window to return to this page.

Demonstration of an Aquaponics CEA System

SUNY Research Foundation/Morrisville and O’Brien & Gere

The objective of the project is to demonstrate the technical, biological, and energetic feasibility of an integrated hydroponics/aquaponics system that could be deployed throughout New York State. Researchers are investigating the potential of this system 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 Source Sentinel 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.

Comparing Energy Use and Carbon Footprints of Four Urban Food Production Systems

Cornell University

Expanding interest in local food production is based, in part; on avoiding the energy to transport fresh produce across the U.S., with the resulting significant carbon footprint. This interest has created a focus on food‐miles and urban agriculture. This study will consider two approaches to producing fresh vegetables locally in urban areas. One approach is horizontal greenhouses operated in a CEA manner, which may be represented as peri‐urban greenhouses serving the urban area or as roof‐level greenhouses located within or near the urban core.

The other approach may be termed “plant factories”, represented as multi‐story, vertical greenhouses located within the urban core or by closed systems such as large boxes similar to shipping containers (or abandoned industrial buildings) located within urban areas. The different approaches designed to produce local, fresh vegetables will be compared based on the energy required per unit of food production and, additionally, the additional carbon footprint arising from using grid electricity to provide all or nearly all the photosynthetic lighting in plant factories.

Optimizing Light Emitting Diode Systems for Greenhouse Leafy Greens Production

Cornell University

The objective of this research is to evaluate and optimize the use of light emitting diodes (LED) for supplemental lighting in greenhouse leafy greens production. The first stage of research will address several practical questions that must be answered before an efficient LED installation can occur including: Which commercially available LED luminaires are most suitable for greenhouse use? How do these luminaires affect plant yield and quality? What is the best way to control LEDs to time light supply to plant needs and take advantage of fluctuations in electricity rate structures? The project will culminate in a one‐year greenhouse demonstration comparing an LED installation to conventional high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting. This information will be used to develop an interactive spreadsheet tool that can be used by commercial greenhouse operators to estimate the economics (accounting for capital and operating costs) of installing LED vs. HID lighting according to their operation’s needs.

Innovations to Maximize Energy Efficiency and Quality of Transplant Production

Cornell Cooperative Extension and Cornell University

The objective of this demonstration is to test whether growth chambers, which are small climate-controlled spaces specifically designed for seedling germination and early plant growth, are an energetically and economically superior alternative to starting seeds in a heated greenhouse with bottom heat. In addition, researchers in cooperation with growers will determine whether the germination environment in the chamber results in significantly better seedling stand and quality throughout the growing season by providing optimal temperature and humidity for germination in comparison to growth exclusively in the greenhouse.

Demonstration of a Greenhouse Automation System

Gotham Greens Jamaica, LLC

This project is a demonstration of an innovative, energy efficient, automated crop production system capable of producing more crops per unit area compared to conventional, stationary hydroponic production systems while utilizing less electricity per kg of crop produced. The demonstration of this automated crop production system will represent the first ever in New York State; first ever on a rooftop/urban area; and one of the first ever applications in the United States.

Automated systems are capable of increasing greenhouse surface area used for production. Second, they can increase productivity and efficiency by constantly adjusting the plant density throughout the crop’s entire life cycle. By moving the growing beds in a conveyor type system, from one end of the greenhouse to the other, over the crop’s life cycle, walkway area in the greenhouse can be dramatically reduced resulting in an increase in growing system area compared to stationary systems.

Zero Energy Plasticulture High-Tunnels Agriculture (ZEPHTA)

Michael McDonough, Architect, P.C.

The problem addressed under the proposal titled ZEPHTA is the commercialization of crops in a facility designed for 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 comprises net zero energy capable, self-irrigating via storm-water retention, computer-assisted temperature and humidity regulating, and portable agricultural system that can support locally-based agriculture virtually 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 multiple crops per season, and monitor performance to determine energy usage per pound of produce grown.

Benefits of the proposed project include: with energy reduction of 60% to 90% over standard greenhouse models, system has the potential to become zero net energy (MJ/kg of product) and carbon neutral (kg CO2/kg of product), enable technology transfer of an innovative idea, support soil-based local food production, and provide significant long-term economic advantages over other greenhouse systems.