Tri-State, EPRI team to bring “Farm in a Box” program to Moffat County School District

  • Indoor agriculture facility will provide educational opportunities in a wide array of disciplines, from horticulture and culinary arts to engineering and business.
  • Tri-State’s annual investment in EPRI to cover the $250,000 cost of the project.
  • Custom-branded container to be located at Moffat County High School.
  • Project will generate fresh produce, as well as data to help drive new technology breakthroughs.

(September 22, 2020 – Craig, Colo.) Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association’s decades-long relationship with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is about to bear fruit – perhaps literally – for Moffat County School District (MCSD) students and the Craig community as a whole.

Tri-State will install one of EPRI’s cutting-edge indoor agriculture facilities on the grounds of Moffat County High School later this year. 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. The farm has the capability to produce various crops, such as lettuce, kale, arugula herbs, flowers, carrots and radishes, year round.

 “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. “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.”

Container view in Brookings, S.D., for Missouri River Energy Services and South Dakota State University.

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.”

For the first two years following installation, 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. 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 (MCHS).

“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 Krista Schenck, Business Education teacher at MCHS. “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.”

“The first year will be spent on experimenting and finding the best crops for our community,” added Rick Murr, MCHS Ag Education teacher.

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 Tri-State’s 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.

Container view in Staples, Minn., for Great River Energy and Central Lakes College.

About Tri-State

Tri-State is a not-for-profit cooperative of 45 members, including 42 utility electric distribution cooperatives and public power districts members in four states, that together deliver reliable, affordable and responsible power to more than a million electricity consumers across nearly 200,000 square miles of the West. For more information about Tri-State and our Responsible Energy Plan, visit www.tristate.coop.

About EPRI

The Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. (EPRI, www.epri.com) is a tax-exempt, non-profit organization that conducts research and development relating to the generation, delivery and use of electricity for the benefit of the public, on a non-discriminatory basis. An independent organization, EPRI brings together its scientists and engineers as well as experts from academia and industry to help address challenges in electricity, including reliability, efficiency, health, safety and the environment. EPRI’s members represent more than 90 percent of the electricity generated and delivered in the United States, and international participation extends to nearly 40 countries. EPRI’s principal offices and laboratories are located in Palo Alto, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Lenox, Mass.

By Brian Allmer - The BARN

Brian Allmer & the BARN are members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), the Colorado FFA Foundation, the Colorado 4H Foundation, the Colorado Farm Show Marketing Committee, 1867 Club Board Member, Denver Ag & Livestock Club Member, the Weld County Fair Board, the Briggsdale FFA Advisory Council, Briggsdale 4H Club Beef Leader & Founder / Coordinator of the Briggsdale Classic Open Jackpot Show.