Cornell group explores future of indoor farming

Reposted from CALS News and the Cornell Chronicle [2017-11-21]

Doctoral student Jonathan Allred, center, leads a tour of Cornell greenhouses in November. Photo by R.J. Anderson / Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Horticulture doctoral student Jonathan Allred, center, leads a tour of Cornell greenhouses in November. Photo by R.J. Anderson / Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Indoor farming entrepreneurs and experts came to Cornell in early November with a goal: leverage the innovation at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to create viable businesses for local vegetables and produce grown indoors.

Known as controlled environment agriculture (CEA), the systems combine greenhouse environmental controls such as heating and lighting with hydroponic and soilless production, enabling year-round production of fresh vegetables. The process extends the growing season through a range of low-tech solutions – such as row covers and plastic-covered tunnels – to such high-tech solutions as fully automated glass greenhouses with computer controls and LED lights.

Neil Mattson, director of Cornell CEA and associate professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science, at left, explains lighting trials during a tour of Cornell greenhouses in November. Photo by R.J. Anderson / CCE

Neil Mattson, director of Cornell CEA and associate professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science, at left, explains lighting trials during a tour of Cornell greenhouses in November. Photo by R.J. Anderson / CCE

Led by Neil Mattson, director of Cornell CEA and associate professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell has become a world leader in CEA research. In early November, the Cornell CEA Advisory Council, which was formed in 2015 to expand the retail and food service markets for products grown using CEA, hosted on campus more than 80 entrepreneurs and stakeholders from across the Northeast to discuss the state of the indoor farming industry, urban agriculture, supermarket trends and new technology.

At the conference the group announced the formation of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Global Association, an organization to foster growth, understanding and sharing ideas related to controlled environment agriculture and associated industries.

Erico Mattos, executive director of the newly formed Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium, presented his vision to advance CEA by bringing together expertise from industry and academia to create solutions.

“The CEA Advisory Council meeting provided a great opportunity to connect with key players from the different segments of the CEA supply chain in New York. I was impressed with the quality and quantity of the ongoing initiatives in this area supported by Cornell University professors and staff members and the level of engagement from the industry members,” Mattos said.

Mattos said private companies and public research from Cornell offer collaborative opportunities that can advance the CEA industry.

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$2.4 million Cornell-led project to explore the viability of indoor agriculture

 

Neil Mattson, GLASE PI and associate professor in the Horticulture Section of Cornell's School of Integrative Plant Science. (Chris Kitchen/University Photography)

Neil Mattson, GLASE PI and associate professor in the Horticulture Section of Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science. (Chris Kitchen/University Photography)

CALS News [2017-10-12]:

Growing crops in controlled environments – in greenhouses, plant factories and in vertical farms – provides alternatives to conventional farming by producing food year-round near metropolitan areas, reducing transportation costs and water use, and improving land-use efficiency. Such local systems also offer valuable educational and psychological benefits by connecting urban people to the food they consume.

At the same time, there is little concrete evidence to show how so-called controlled-environment agriculture (CEA) compares to conventional field agriculture in terms of energy, carbon and water footprints, profitability, workforce development and scalability.

Cornell will lead a project to answer these questions, thanks to a three-year, $2.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation, through its new funding initiative called Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems.

“By putting all these pieces together – including energy, water, workforce development and economic viability – we hope to discover if CEAs make sense for producing food for the masses,” said Neil Mattson, the grant’s principal investigator and associate professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science.

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GLASE Director Mattos wins ASHS paper of the year

Erico Mattos

Erico Mattos

GLASE Executive Director Erico Mattos was one of the co-authors who received the American Society for Horticultural Sciences Outstanding Cross-Commodity Publication for papers published in 2016.

The award was given to the paper A Chlorophyll Fluorescence-based Biofeedback System to Control Photosynthetic Lighting in Controlled Environment Agriculture [J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 141(2):169–176] published in partnership with a team from the University of Georgia.

The announcement was made at the Award Ceremony during the Plenary Session at the 114th ASHS Annual Conference at the Hilton Waikoloa, Waikoloa, Hawaii on September 19th.

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Pocock, Mattson present at ASHS Conference

ashs bannerGLASE Principal Investigators Neil Mattson, Cornell University and Tessa Pocock,  Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), presented talks at the 2017 American Society for Horticultural Sciences Annual Conference September 19-22 at The Hilton Waikoloa in Waikoloa, Hawaii.

Mattson presented his team’s findings on the Impact of Green, Far-red, and White Light on Lettuce Grown Under Sole Source Lighting.

Pocock presented her team’s findings on The Biological Effects of Different Phosphors Used in LED Down Conversion.

The work presented by Mattson and Pocock is part of the larger GLASE scope that was designed to develop, validate and implement new lighting technologies for the CEA industry.

Read summaries of, listen to or view Mattson’s and Pocock’s talks:

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GLASE PI Pocock to deliver plenary at Horticultural Lighting Conference – USA

Tessa Pocock

Tessa Pocock

GLASE Principal Investigator Tessa Pocock, Center for Lighting Enabled  Systems and Applications (LESA), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), will give the closing plenary talk at the Horticultural Lighting Conference 2017 on October 17 at the Denver Marriott City Center in Denver, Colorado.

The conference will focus on the latest trends, techniques and technologies impacting the advancement of the market and will explore the use of horticultural lighting in North American crop production and manufacturing markets.

During her presentation, “Fast-forwarding the Future of Food,” Pocock will talk about the latest evidence regarding crop specificity and lighting while she helps guide the audience through the very complex maze of plant-light interactions.

View program preview.

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GLASE consortium aims to improve greenhouse energy efficiency

From Hort Americas blog [2017-08-24]:
Even though the Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium is New York-based, the research it is doing has the potential to impact controlled environment agriculture worldwide.

The GLASE consortium is headed by researchers Tessa Pocock at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Neil Mattson at Cornell University and GLASE executive director Erico Mattos.

The GLASE consortium is headed by researchers Tessa Pocock at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Neil Mattson at Cornell University and GLASE executive director Erico Mattos.

The Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium is a partnership between Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Albany, N.Y. The consortium will be conducting research to improve controlled environment agriculture (CEA) operations including reducing energy consumption.

The goal of the consortium is to create a more sustainable and profitable greenhouse industry. Although the focus of the research will be on greenhouse production, the findings should also have application to indoor CEA production including vertical farms and warehouses. Greenhouses, which can be electricity-intensive depending on the level of automation, cover 720 acres in New York State. The consortium is looking to reduce greenhouse electricity use and concomitant carbon emission by 70 percent and to increase crop yields by 2030.

Erico Mattos, who was appointed executive director of GLASE in June, said he has been hired as a subcontractor by Cornell University and will be working to recruit industry members to join the consortium.

“Currently I have a 50 percent time appointment with GLASE,” Mattos said. “My time with GLASE will increase as we bring in industry members. I am living in Georgia, but will be moving to upstate New York over the next year and will be located between RPI in Albany and Cornell University in Ithaca.”

Mattos said GLASE is a seven-year project which has received $5 million from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The money will be used to sponsor research between Cornell and RPI.
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GLASE featured in The Polytechnic

Photo: Jack Wellhofer/The Polytechnic

Photo: Jack Wellhofer/The Polytechnic

The Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering Consortium (GLASE) was featured in The Polytechnic, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s student-run newspaper, July 17:

GLASE center to improve greenhouse industry

An excerpt:

One of the many aspects of Rensselaer’s environmentally-conscious research enterprise revolves around sustainable and clean food, water, and energy supplies under President Jackson’s research paradigm known as “The New Polytechnic.” A new public-private research consortium called GLASE, or the Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering Consortium, was announced at a press conference in the Darrin Communications Center at Rensselaer.

The consortium will be led by researchers at Cornell University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with the goal of transforming the way greenhouses operate in order to reduce electricity usage by up to seventy percent. The seven year, $5 million project is currently being funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority in order to advance Governor Cuomo’s Clean Energy Standard that aims to have 50 percent of electricity come from renewable sources by 2030, satisfying requirements held by the Paris Climate Accords and the federal Clean Power Plan.

Plant physiology expert Dr. Tessa Pocock, senior research scientist at the Center for Lighting Enabled Systems and Applications, will lead Rensselaer’s portion of the investigation focusing primarily on systems engineering applications.

“The engineered LED lighting and sensing systems with advanced feedback control are being pioneered at LESA. Integrated with Cornell’s advanced greenhouse management technologies, GLASE has the potential to create a more sustainable and profitable greenhouse industry. The systems engineering expertise at LESA and the agriculture expertise at Cornell make this an ideal partnership,” said NYSERDA.

Dr. Neil Mattson, an associate professor in horticulture at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, will be the principal investigator at Cornell, determining precise LED light conditions needed for tomatoes and strawberries, both commonly grown in commercial greenhouses. Mattson, who directs the Controlled Environmental Agriculture Group at Cornell CALS, said investment in energy-efficient greenhouse lighting will ensure New York’s leadership in local food production and that reactive LED lighting, much of which is currently being developed at Rensselaer, will enable optimal lighting conditions in greenhouses.

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New Consortium to Reduce Greenhouse Energy Use

Reposted from CALS News [2017-06-05]

GLASE team members include Neil Mattson, associate professor, SIPS; David de Villiers, research associate, SIPS; Kale Harbick, research associate, SIPS; Lou Albright, professor emeritus, Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering. Photo by Chris Kitchen / University Marketing.

GLASE team members include Neil Mattson, associate professor, SIPS; David de Villiers, research associate, SIPS; Kale Harbick, research associate, SIPS; Lou Albright, professor emeritus, Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering. Photo by Chris Kitchen / University Marketing.

New York greenhouses are increasingly tasked to do two things seemingly at odds with one another: match consumer appetite for increased local vegetable production while dramatically reducing overall energy consumption.

A public-private consortium led by researchers at Cornell and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) is poised to accomplish both. The Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium announced June 5 will transform the way greenhouses operate to reduce electricity use for lighting by up to 70 percent.

NYS Agriculture and Markets commissioner Richard Ball, Mattson, and RPI collaborator Tessa Pocock at the GLASE consortium announcement June 5.

NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets commissioner Richard Ball, Mattson, and RPI photobiologist Tessa Pocock at the GLASE consortium announcement June 5.

Led by Neil Mattson, associate professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, and his collaborators at RPI, GLASE demonstrates a holistic greenhouse energy management system that integrates control of LED lighting, carbon dioxide supplementation, ventilation and humidity.

The seven-year, $5 million project funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) will advance Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s energy policy – Reforming the Energy Vision – that aims to reduce greenhouses gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels.

At RPI’s center for Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications (LESA), engineers will develop energy efficient, cutting-edge light-emitting diode (LED) plant-lighting systems. Unlike the high-pressure sodium bulbs traditionally used to illuminate greenhouses, LED light can be dimmed and the spectrum adjusted to match optimal wavelengths. Cornell horticulture experts in collaboration with LESA photobiologist Tessa Pocock will test dynamic lighting and control systems that adjust to provide light more effectively to plants.

Mattson, who directs the Controlled Environment Agriculture group in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said reactive lighting made possible with LED technologies allows growers to provide optimal lighting as conditions change throughout the day. His research at the Kenneth Post and Guterman greenhouse facilities on the Ithaca campus will determine precise LED lighting and control strategies needed by lettuce, tomatoes and strawberries as model plants.

“An ability to adjust in real time the light spectrum and light quantity means plants get consistent, uniform, reproducible light at all times. That means we’re not wasting light and the electricity needed to create it when plants don’t need it for growth,” Mattson said.

Trends in New York are pointing toward more vegetables being grown indoors. The most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture census data shows the cultivation of lettuce and tomatoes in the state increased by 10.6 percent per year from 2007 to 2012.

“This is an industry that continues to expand in the vegetable-growing sector,” Mattson said. “This investment in energy-efficient greenhouse production will help ensure New York’s continued leadership in local food production in the Northeast.”

Along with light and water, plants require carbon dioxide to drive photosynthesis. Previous research by Lou Albright, professor emeritus in the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, has shown that lettuce needs substantially less supplemental light if the environment is enriched with carbon dioxide. Mattson and his team will study how tomato and strawberry growth responds to carbon dioxide supplementation.

Data collected from his studies will be used by Cornell biological and environmental engineering colleagues Kale Harbick and Tim Shelford to develop algorithms that growers can use to make dynamic decisions regarding optimal lighting and carbon dioxide conditions. Over the life of the project, Mattson’s team will work with industry partners to test strategies in commercial facilities and monitor the carbon footprint of their operations.

The consortium will work with lighting manufacturers, growers, trade groups, produce buyers, agriculture lighting engineers, researchers, government agencies, Cornell Cooperative Extension specialists and others.

“New York’s greenhouse industry is experiencing rapid growth, making quick and meaningful action key to ensuring new and existing greenhouses are energy-efficient and highly productive,” said John B. Rhodes, president and CEO of NYSERDA. “The consortium’s work will advance Governor Cuomo’s energy goals and New York’s vital agriculture sector.”

Mattson said GLASE is being organized to persist as a self-sustaining group. When the seven-year funding commitment ends, the consortium plans to continue to work with companies and partners to develop an organization that responds to industry needs.

Written by Matt Hayes, CALS Marketing and Communications. This article originally appeared in the Cornell Chronicle {2017-06-05].

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