Southwestern Electric Power Co., an American Electric Power (Nasdaq: AEP) company, in collaboration with Shreveport Green and EPRI, today announced the first harvest of Shreveport Green’s Urban Farm, an indoor agriculture facility that utilizes new technology to grow nutritious food year-round.
The Urban Farm on Sprague Street near downtown Shreveport features a controlled environment agriculture (CEA) farm made from a custom shipping container equipped with LED lighting, a high efficiency HVAC system, recirculating water pumps, a dehumidification system, and sensors. Indoor agriculture facilities like this allow for the year-round local production of crops regardless of outdoor conditions. The container uses electric technologies to create a microclimate that optimizes plant production and helps meet other community energy, water, and sustainability goals.
“SWEPCO is proud to collaborate on this exciting project that will help increase access to healthy food in our communities using this innovative farming method,” said SWEPCO President and Chief Operating Officer Malcolm Smoak.
The produce planted inside the container is closely monitored via remote sensor technology, which continuously gathers real-time data on growing conditions. This information allows farmers to remotely control the lighting, temperature and watering conditions to create the ideal setting needed for produce to thrive. Shreveport Green is growing nearly 1,200 Tuscan kale plants in the hydroponic container that holds 88 growing panels. It will be harvested once every week-and-a-half and distributed through the Shreveport Green Mobile Market to provide fresh, nutritious food to the Choice Neighborhood recipients living in Allendale, Ledbetter Heights and Lakeside communities of Shreveport.
“We are thrilled to be a part of this exciting and practical program,” said said Donna Curtis, Shreveport Green Executive Director. “We hope to eventually harvest 90 pounds of produce every three weeks, giving our Mobile Market a dependable source of food. This hydroponic container nicely complements the 22 additional community gardens we have around the city.”
SWEPCO is one of 13 energy companies nationwide participating in a two-year EPRI study designed to demonstrate and better understand opportunities surrounding indoor food production through operation of a CEA farm. Through automated monitoring, researchers at EPRI will be able to evaluate how energy loads, water use, and other controlled parameters vary across different facilities and locations. Other trackable data will also help address questions regarding distribution planning, rate design, and larger societal benefits.
“Indoor agriculture is a rapidly growing and evolving industry across the United States. We’re seeing innovative designs, technologies, and energy applications that are helping CEA farms not only achieve year-round crop cultivation but also contribute to areas of community need like energy and water efficiency goals,” said Frank Sharp, Principal Technical Leader at EPRI. “We’re thrilled to be working with SWEPCO and Shreveport Green to explore potential opportunities from this CEA farm to benefit the Shreveport community.”