Environmental Management Systems using Renewable Energy

Award Information
Department of Agriculture
Award Year:
Phase I
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
12529 DANBURY WAY, Rosemount, MN, 55068-3517
Hubzone Owned:
Minority Owned:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator:
Erik Gundacker
(563) 650-3654
Business Contact:
Erik Gundacker
(563) 650-3654
Research Institution:

High tunnel agriculture has evolved from simplified growing systems that employ no electricity or heating mechanisms to semi-automated environments with electricity and auxiliary heat. Currently, however, no technology exists that fully monitors, automates, and manages a multiple high tunnel operation. In order to fully realize the potential of high tunnel production a relatively low cost, high-tech climate control technology is needed. Additionally, as growers expand from a single high tunnel system to numerous tunnels, they need to reduce the manual labor required. Growers will require a system that supports vertical expansion (adding specific sensors for a variety of crops within one high tunnel) and horizontal expansion (adding more high tunnels to the operation). They also need a system that will easily accommodate new sensor technology and is rugged enough to handle the climate extremes both inside and outside the high tunnels. Most importantly for growers, however, is a system that is affordable. The Environmental Management System (EMS) enhances the efficiency of crop production by monitoring, automating, and managing high tunnel agriculture. The EMS optimizes inputs and reduces environmental impacts by implementing the use of sensors, precision farming, information technology, and remote control. The sensors interface to a control unit, which then interfaces wirelessly to a remote PC. In order to develop the EMS, our company will research environmental sensors that provide reliable and accurate data. During benchmark and field testing at three separate locations, sensor data will be analyzed for algorithm development. These algorithms will provide manual and automatic control of the crop production processes. A solar thermal heating and cooling system will be also integrated with the EMS and data will be collected and evaluated on both systems. The EMS allows high tunnel agriculture to scale up in size and thereby provide an adaptive technology to changing climate conditions as well as shift fruit and vegetable production away from traditional warm weather locations. The solar thermal heating system generally replaces the need for fossil fuel based supplemental heat, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Listed below are some of the economic, social and environmental impacts of solar thermal EMS high tunnel technology: 1. Boosts fruit and vegetable yields compared to traditional high tunnels 2. Reduces on-farm labor expenses and minimizes human error 3. Improves producer knowledge of crop production processes 4. Allows producers to meet consumer demand on either end of the production curve when competition is lower and prices are higher 5. Spurs economic development in rural areas by expanding the produce industry 6. Diminishes operational greenhouse gas emissions 7. Produces healthier, safer fruits and vegetables with less risk of contamination

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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