A collaborative project between electric cooperatives and organizations with a vested interest in the success of rural communities was recently recognized by the Environmental Initiative during its 2022 award season.
‘Sota Grown, a two-year demonstration project to sustainably grow leafy greens year-round for Minnesota residents using a hydroponic growing system inside a shipping container, was selected to receive the Environmental Initiative’s 2022 Rural Vitality honorable mention award.
The Environmental Initiative Awards is an annual recognition program that celebrates people and projects working in partnership at the nexus of a healthy environment, a prosperous economy and an equitable society.
Great River Energy and its member-owner cooperative Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative are two partners involved in the project, which is part of a larger national indoor crop production effort. The ‘Sota Grown demonstration is looking at how using efficient electricity, technology, plant sciences and control solutions to create microclimates can produce ideal conditions for plant growth, yield, quality and consistency.
“It’s exciting for our work to receive such prestigious recognition,” said Jill Eide, member commercial, industrial and agricultural strategist at Great River Energy. “The pod is already making a positive impact on the local community with 40 pounds of leafy greens being harvested each week, which is up to 20 times more product than from a conventional field.”
The pod is located at Central Lakes College’s campus in Staples, Minnesota, where students receive hands-on training to plant, maintain and harvest the growing crops. The harvest is then delivered to Lakewood Health System for its “Food Farmacy” program that feeds more than 600 people monthly.
The awards evaluation team said it recognizes the unique learning opportunity this project provides college students, and that it addresses “equity and food desert concerns by bringing together national, state, regional and local partners to interconnect nutrition and well-being in the health system.”
“We believe this project can be scaled easily once the efficiency and technology are figured out and could be easy to set up in areas that lack access to fresh food,” the team said in its evaluation of ‘Sota Grown.
‘Sota Grown and its partners, including the Electric Power Research Institute, will be recognized at the Environmental Initiative Awards’ program in May. Follow along with the project at facebook.com/SotaGrown.