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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) – Growing crops during the scorching days of summer can be quite a challenge in North Central Florida.
So having the ability to grow them all year round is something researchers are thinking more about.
When growing any type of plant or crop, you normally think of the essentials: water and sunlight. But UF IFAS and its partners are successfully growing plants, while using far less of these two elements.
The IFAS Research and Education Center in Live Oak has just launched its Smart Garden indoor farming facility.
The 40-foot-long shipping container is one of fifteen supplied by the Electric Power Research Institute to various climates across the United States.
Wanda Laughlin, program manager for the Smart Garden facility, says “like you have a water source and a power source and you can grow a crop where agriculture would be essentially inaccessible.”
Bob Hochmuth, an IFAS extension worker at the research center, adds that the facility “uses sensors for many different variables, including “nutrients, light levels, ventilation, carbon dioxide, all those things. which help provide the perfect baby kale, we can provide those conditions right here inside this container.
And all of the variables that impact these plants can be controlled from the comfort of your cell phone.
There are cameras in the unit for project managers to actually watch the plants and make necessary adjustments just by seeing them visually on a phone.
The facility uses water that recycles directly into its own reservoir, using only 8 gallons of water per day.
Blue and red LED lights are used to best generate kale photosynthesis.
However, as these lamps emit heat inside the building, temperature control is essential.
And as the cabbage grows throughout the year, Bob, Wanda and their team at the research center hope to develop a “high value” product and study “what effect it will have on the power grid if it becomes a more standard product – a kind of production system.
The baby kale is donated to Catholic charities and the Florida Gateway Food Bank in Lake City.
Bob and the Live Oak team expect to know the project’s electrical output by the end of the year.
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