Mar 17, 2022Resource Innovation Institute welcomes new producer-partners
The Resource Innovation Institute (RII) welcomes its latest round of producer-partners planning to benchmark their energy- and water-efficiency performance metrics as part of a USDA-funded project aimed at encouraging innovation and resource efficiency in the controlled environment agriculture (CEA) industry.
Spearheaded by RII and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the three-year project is meant to coordinate research in the sector and establish industry performance standards and best practices.
Some of the country’s leading CEA producers have agreed to take part. The most recent round includes Loma Vista Nursery (Kansas), the University of Vermont Horticulture Research & Education Center (Vermont), Controlled Environmental Farming Inc. (Wisconsin) and Vertical Harvest (Wyoming) They join pilot partners AppHarvest, Fifth Season, Revol Greens and Elevate Farms. More producer-partners will be announced in the near future.
“We are delighted to partner with these leading CEA producers as we continue to foster collaboration and create industry standards for resource efficiency,” said Derek Smith, executive director of RII. “Building a trusted, representative aggregate dataset is the optimal way to make sure that standards are meaningful, reliable, and uniform throughout the industry.”
RII is working to support a project, called “Data-Driven Market Transformation for Efficient, Sustainable Controlled Environment Agriculture,” funded by a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant.
RII’s producer-partners represent both geographic diversity and a wide range of crops grown in indoor environments. The global market is expanding for everything from microgreens to tomatoes to berries. Resource efficiency is a top priority for producers as they look to control costs, reduce their environmental footprint and meet consumer demands.
“Vertical Harvest is excited to work with RII to contribute to the standards and transparency that will allow us to make this case and push our own operations to improve through education and accountability,” said Hannah Bouline, sustainability manager of Vertical Harvest Farms. “We are a part of a world-changing industry. Our work will always be evolving, so we want to learn, explore, and innovate as much as we can. This holds especially true for examining resource use and sustainability in CEA, where we are still collectively proving out the case for all of the various production methods to deliver substantially better environmental outcomes.”
Resource Innovation Institute’s PowerScore resource benchmarking platform enables CEA producers to confidentially validate their innovative practices. Using standardized key performance indicators, PowerScore helps producers gain insights into their operational performance while protecting strategic business interests. When producers receive their PowerScore Performance Snapshots, they also meet with the RII Engineering team to review a Producer Resource Efficiency Plan (PREP) which analyzes trends in KPI performance, notes facility strengths and opportunities, and guides prioritization of efficiency projects going forward.
“The University of Vermont is a recognized national leader in sustainability action, and our research greenhouses have a responsibility to use electricity efficiently,” said Derek Allen, greenhouse facilities director, University of Vermont. “PowerScore is helping us to quantify the benefits and forecast the energy impacts of our 2021 LED installation, and this data will enable us to estimate cost savings of future LED retrofits while improving the incentive from our utility partners. In addition, the UVM greenhouse is excited to collaborate with RII in contributing to greenhouse industry performance standards.”
“In our continuing efforts to grow plants we are proud of, we also take pride in our industry’s ability to positively impact future generations,” said Lynsdi Oestmann, president of Loma Vista Nursery. “Through collaboration with the USDA-funded CEA benchmarking initiative, we have been able to use PowerScore to evaluate past improvements and create goals towards resource efficiencies going forward. The PREP process and working with RII will help us direct these goals in the appropriate directions to achieve optimized sustainability. In achieving these goals, Loma Vista Nursery hopes to help make it possible for everyone to ‘experience the view’ for generations to come.”
“Controlled Environmental Farming Inc, Ellsworth, Wisconsin, is extremely excited to work with the Resource Innovation Institute on the development of their scalable, urban farm model for closed-loop food production. Localized, sustainable food production positioned inside metropolitan areas is a huge need. Working with the RII, the University of Vermont and other leaders of CEA is exactly what we need to demonstrate and validate our structure and operational methods,” said Bruce Carman, owner and director of technology.
Throughout this year, RII is releasing new CEA best-practices guidance as part of the project. The first of these peer-reviewed publications was just released and will help utilities and efficiency program managers understand the savings potential of resource-efficient technologies, how to quantify these benefits, and the most effective ways to support producers in adopting efficient practices. Additional guides on the horizon will offer guidance to producers on topics such as cultivating with LED lighting, operating HVAC systems and integrating controls and automation.