Farm-In-A-Box Means Fresh Local Greens Year-Round
WOODBINE, IOWA – Students at IGNITE Pathways of Woodbine will be able to learn about indoor agriculture this fall, thanks to a “farm-in-a-box” donated by Woodbine Municipal Light and Power’s wholesale power supplier, Missouri River Energy Services (MRES).
The high-tech farm, called The Greenery, is housed in an 8-foot-by-40-foot shipping container designed and built by Freight Farms of Boston, Massachusetts. Plants in the container grow vertically on walls, without soil, getting their nutrition from water and light energy from powerful LEDs. The controlled system makes it possible to produce high yields of quality, flavorful and nutritious food year-round, anywhere in the world.
MRES purchased the container in early 2020 as part of a collaborative research project with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota. Red Rosie Romaine lettuce produced in the container as part of the research was donated to several non-profit agencies in Brookings throughout the university’s research, which was recently completed. When the research concluded, MRES sought another use for the farm. Jim Reisz, Electric and Water Superintendent for Woodbine Municipal Light and Power, has been instrumental in leading this initiative for Woodbine and IGNITE Pathways.
“The timing of this project has been incredible from the availability of the Greenery to the launching of several IGNITE Pathways programs. We are excited to see this project take off in the Woodbine community,” Reisz said.
“Local indoor agriculture can help make fresh, nutritious produce affordable and available year-round in colder climates like ours,” said Joni Livingston, MRES vice president of member services and communications. “Indoor food production also requires significantly less water and chemicals than traditional agriculture.”
“As an agency serving public power utilities like Woodbine Municipal Light and Power, we are excited to be a part of an emerging market that has so many potential benefits for local communities and for society as a whole,” Livingston said.
IGNITE Pathways Regional Center (IPRC) is a career and technical education center located in Woodbine, Iowa. IPRC first opened its doors to students in 2021 and will be moving into a 45,000 sq. ft. facility in August 2023. The program will serve approximately 200 students in grades 7-12 from around Southwest Iowa in 2023-24. IGNITE strives to provide opportunities for students to explore potential career paths, earn industry certifications, and receive core (English, math, social studies, and science credits) graduation requirements through CTE classes.
Justin Mills, IGNITE Agriculture Instructor, shared thoughts on the project, “I am excited about the opportunities to involve the entire community in a sustainable approach to growing produce. I also look forward to incorporating the food farm into my classes and feel it is a great learning tool that can be utilized by so many.”
MRES is a not-for-profit joint-action agency that provides wholesale electricity and energy services to 61 member municipalities in the states of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. All MRES members own and operate local electric distribution systems.
For more information about the project, please contact:
Michelle Barry, director, IGNITE Pathways
Joni Livingston, Vice President - Member Services and Communications, MRES