In 2010, I launched RecoveryPark to not only convert blighted land in the City of Detroit into urban agriculture and aquaculture businesses, but to create jobs for Detroiters. Last year, RecoveryPark built a pilot farm in Detroit to validate key aspects of our business model, and we are proud to say that produce from our pilot farm has already been featured on the menus of several high end Metro-Detroit restaurants.
More recently, we took over 40,000 square feet of indoor greenhouse space in Oakland County that had fallen into disuse. Over the course of the next year, we will be using the space as a research and training facility to increase our production 10-fold, sell to new restaurants on our waiting list, and hire and train new associates. We are also working closely with Mayor Duggan and his team to determine our expansion options in Detroit. Over the next ten years, I am proud to say that we expect to create over 1,000 jobs under Detroit’s “local, live, fresh” food movement.
As a major urban farming operation, one of our biggest challenges is growing crops during Michigan’s wintry dark days – which is why we are excited to sponsor NextEnergy’s NextChallenge: Lighting. This global innovation challenge will allow us explore new lighting solutions that enable photosynthesis in plants during these shorter and darker winter days.
Click here to watch an information video about our technology needs.
We believe that we can optimize our plant yield through advanced lighting technologies for our greenhouses and hydroponics operations. Our objective is to find a cost effective, energy efficient, customized lighting system that will react to various environmental conditions. We pay the electric company for watts, but lumens are what naturally trigger photosynthesis in plants. So we asked ourselves:
- How can we create enough lumens to grow things like tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers indoors year round?
- How can we can we utilize technology to mimic Mother Nature?
- How can we get the growing cycles of July and August in terms of lengths of time with amount of lumens necessary for that photosynthesis to take place?
- How can we do it cheaply?
With NextChallenge: Lighting, we are excited about innovators from all over the world helping us answer these questions. Winners will play a key role in helping RecoveryPark reduce energy consumption and environmental impact, increase business efficiency, and spur greater economic development in Detroit and globally.
Below are a few details of what we hope to achieve for the NextChallenge: Lighting:
Maximize Greenhouse Energy Efficiency to Reduce Consumption, Cost, and Environmental Impact
- Consider direct current distribution systems integrated with low current lighting to reduce energy consumption
- Create high reliability driver electronics to reduce maintenance
Utilize improved lighting as a system approach- including advanced greenhouse glass technology (coatings, integrated solar)
- Enhance lighting systems to include advanced water technology to measure plant health and trigger water and fertilization, -optimizing water consumption
Use Lighting Technologies to Optimize Plant Growth and Ease of Harvesting
- Emulate daylight with LED technology in greenhouse/hydroponic operations
- Design low cost greenhouse environmental enclosures (water proofing)
- Centralize lighting control with advanced sensor technology (could include humidity and laser detection, tune lighting, and an adjustable lighting spectrum to match time of day, plant type and/or stage of life
Winners of NextChallenge: Lighting will gain the opportunity to build valuable relationships with new partners, in addition to being awarded up to $80,000 in cash and/or in-kind support.
The application deadline is coming up quick – be sure to apply by the March 6, 2015 deadline.
For more information and applications, please visit www.nextenergy.org/nextchallenge.