Tri-State, EPRI team to officially bring ‘Farm in a Box’ program to Moffat County School District

Moffat County School District

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association’s decades-long relationship with the Electric Power Research Institute is about to bear fruit for Moffat County School District students and the Craig community as a whole as the “Farm in the Box” project moves forward.

Tri-State will install one of EPRI’s cutting-edge indoor agriculture facilities on the grounds of Moffat County High School later this year, according to a press release from Tri-State.

The “Farm in a Box” is valued at $250,000 – which is covered as part of Tri-State’s EPRI membership – and will provide a new source for fresh produce in the region and educational opportunities for MCSD students. Moffat County High School Business Teacher Krista Schenck presented the project to City Council in early September. The project has the capability to produce various crops, such as lettuce, kale, arugula herbs, flowers, carrots and radishes, year round inside the shipping container.

 “Tri-State invests in its EPRI membership and is keen to find immediately applicable uses for the remarkable technologies that emerge to benefit the electric sector and society at large,” said Tri-State CEO Duane Highley in a press release. “We also recognize that the transition brought on by our Responsible Energy Plan will have a major impact on coal-dependent communities, so if we can leverage a program to bring new educational, economic and lifestyle benefits to support Moffat County schools, we are proud and eager to do so.”

An EPRI-led team is constructing the facility – a 40-foot long shipping container equipped with efficient lighting, temperature control and plumbing infrastructure needed to grow crops inside the container on a year-round basis.

Since 2015, EPRI has been examining the operational, technological, sustainability and environmental characteristics for indoor agriculture, by installing container farms across the United States and assessing their performance with local electricity providers, academic institutions and other community organizations.

“As an emerging industry in urban and rural areas throughout the United States, indoor farming can help us use our energy and water resources more efficiently,” said EPRI President Arshad Mansoor. “EPRI’s indoor food production research aims to help electric utilities better understand, plan for, and engage with this novel enterprise while also offering educational opportunities for project collaborators, the local community, and the next generation of farmers to address food availability challenges.”

According to Tri State, EPRI staff will monitor the container to evaluate nutrient quality of the produce, utility program compatibility, community impacts, sustainability performance, technology trends, market drivers, electricity load profiles, and other broader environmental and economic aspects of indoor food production for the first two years following installation. EPRI will conduct research on the container and MCSD will be the sole owner and operator of the equipment.

“Moffat County School District is excited about the learning potential this program affords its career and technical education students in our community,” said Principal Sarah Hepworth of Moffat County High School.

“Through the collaboration between agricultural, business, marketing and culinary programs, the opportunities to learn about horticulture, conservation, food regulations, business, and project management, marketing, sales and food preparation are endless for MCSD students,” said Schenck. “Students and faculty look forward to utilizing this partnership and the technology of ‘Farm in a Box’ to grow crops from microgreens to lettuce and carrots.”

Preparing the container farm will take several weeks and involve manufacturing and a customized graphic treatment of its exterior. School officials are targeting early to mid-November for its arrival in Craig. The EPRI team will consult with the school district on installation and operation.

“This is a true team effort,” added Highley. “One of the seven cooperative principles under which we operate is ‘Concern for Community,’ so we’re excited to see the school district adopt this project and turn it into a real asset for community betterment.”

In January, Tri-State announced its Responsible Energy Plan, which will transition the company to more renewable energy production for its members to address changes in the industry and to support new state requirements for clean energy. The effort will result in the closure of the Craig Generation Station by 2030, and Tri-State has been working with state and local officials to support transition efforts in the community.

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