It is always a meaningful opportunity when given the chance to ensure a certain positive outcome for the future, and that was never more evident than with Tri-State’s efforts to “sow the seeds,” with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), in bringing “Farm in a Box” to the Moffat County High School in Craig, Colo.
On Nov. 5, Tri-State’s CEO Duane Highley joined with EPRI’s Senior Vice President Rob Chapman, MCHS Principal Sarah Hepworth, Ag Teachers Shelby Massey and Rick Murr, Craig Mayor and MCHS Director of Facilities Jarrod Ogden, and Moffat County Commissioner Ray Beck to dedicate an agricultural pod. Students interested in exploring a number of potential employment opportunities will study at the ag pod. With strong leadership from all involved, the meeting was held outside with best practices implemented to manage pandemic risks.
What is Farm in a Box?
The Farm in a Box has the capability to produce various crops, such as lettuce, kale, arugula herbs, flowers, carrots and radishes, year round. It will help educate students about agriculture, energy use, water use, light use, temperatures for growing crops, and other useful skills for the future.
“Tri-State invests in its EPRI membership and is keen to find immediately applicable uses for the remarkable technologies that emerge to benefit the electric sector and society at large,” Highley said. “We also recognize that the transition brought on by our Responsible Energy Plan will have a major impact on coal-dependent communities, so if we can leverage a program to bring new educational, economic and lifestyle benefits to support Moffat County schools, we are proud and eager to do so.”
An EPRI-led team last week constructed the ag pod upon its arrival in Craig. The 40-foot-long shipping container is equipped with efficient lighting, temperature control, and plumbing infrastructure needed to grow crops inside the container on a year-round basis.
Since 2015, EPRI has been examining the operational, technological, sustainability, and environmental characteristics of indoor agriculture, by installing container farms across the United States and assessing their performance with local electricity providers, academic institutions, and other community organizations.
How Indoor Farming Helps Conserve Energy
“As an emerging industry in urban and rural areas throughout the United States, indoor farming can help us use our energy and water resources more efficiently,” said EPRI’s Chapman. “EPRI’s indoor food production research aims to help electric utilities better understand, plan for, and engage with this novel enterprise while also offering educational opportunities for project collaborators, the local community, and the next generation of farmers to address food availability challenges.”
For the first two years following installation, EPRI staff will monitor the container to evaluate nutrient quality of the produce, utility program compatibility, community impacts, sustainability performance, technology trends, market drivers, electricity load profiles, and other broader environmental and economic aspects of indoor food production. EPRI will conduct research on the container and MCSD will be the sole owner and operator of the equipment.
“Moffat County School District is excited about the learning potential this program affords its career and technical education students in our community,” said Principal Hepworth of Moffat County High School (MCHS).
Highley noted at the event that the project is part of Tri-State’s electric cooperative’s “Concern for Community” commitment. Tri-State’s annual investment in EPRI provides for the implementation of the project.
“This is a true team effort,” Highley said. “One of the seven cooperative principles under which we operate is ‘Concern for Community,’ so we’re excited to see the school district adopt this project and turn it into a real asset for community betterment.”
In January, Tri-State announced its Responsible Energy Plan, which is transitioning the cooperative to more renewable energy production for its members, greater contract flexibility, and lower emissions. Craig Station will be retired within the next decade, and Tri-State has been working with state and local officials to support transition efforts in the community.
Tri-State is a not-for-profit cooperative of 45 members, including 42 member utility electric distribution cooperatives and public power districts in four states, that together deliver reliable, affordable and responsible power to more than a million electricity consumers across nearly 200,000 square miles of the West. For more information about Tri-State and our Responsible Energy Plan, visit www.tristate.coop.