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UConn Researcher Invents ‘Plant Factory’ for Urban Agriculture
AgTech Controlled Environment Agriculture Education University Research

Revolutionizing Urban Farming With GREENBOX Technology

Urban farming is becoming increasingly popular as urbanization continues to rise worldwide. People are turning to rooftops, balconies, and backyards to grow their own food, but what about abandoned warehouses and basements? Professor Xiusheng (Harrison) Yang of the College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources has developed a new technology called GREENBOX that allows people to grow high-quality food in indoor urban spaces.

Five years ago, Yang, a professor in the Department of Natural Resources, noticed the unmet need for locally grown food in urban environments. He came up with the idea for GREENBOX as a solution to this problem. The current models are about the size of a standard commercial pallet and can reach up to 84 inches high. They contain programmable LED lights, and a hydroponic growing system, and can be controlled remotely for temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide levels.

In a feasibility study, Yang and his students were able to successfully grow 48 heads of lettuce in 30 days, through every season in Storrs, Connecticut. They published their results in Agricultural Sciences in 2021. Yang emphasizes that this is just a proof of concept and that it can easily be scaled up.

GREENBOX offers many advantages over traditional greenhouses. They can be set up in unused urban structures, reducing transportation costs and carbon emissions. They are not affected by weather or pests, and use less energy and water. A financial feasibility study conducted by Yang in 2022 showed that it would be profitable in major cities across the U.S.

The crops best suited for growing in GREENBOX are leafy greens, like lettuce, and cannabis. Yang and his students are now working on optimizing the heating and ventilation systems to make it even more efficient. The development of its technology has been supported by funding from the USDA Hatch Act.

As urbanization continues to rise, GREENBOX offers a solution for growing food locally in urban environments. Its ability to be set up in unused urban structures, use less energy and water, and be profitable in major cities makes it a viable option for urban gardening. With the potential for scalability and optimization, the future of urban farming looks bright with GREENBOX.

Image provided by UConn

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