June 25, 2024

MCC Invites Community to Harvest Open House for MCC FarmBox

"The FarmBox represents so much more and provides a living example for students to be involved in hands-on learning, a benchmark of the student experience at MCC."

Morgan Community College (MCC) invites the community to a Harvest Open House event to celebrate the launch of MCC’s FarmBox on July 11, 2024, from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM on the Fort Morgan campus in Poplar Hall. This event will feature a firsthand look at the FarmBox’s state-of-the-art technology, an innovative farming initiative that promotes sustainable agriculture.

MCC’s FarmBox redefines farming practices using vertical hydroponic farming (VHF) methods which maximize growth and minimize energy and water use. Housed in an efficient box the size of a traditional trucking container, the FarmBox utilizes full spectrum lighting (LED lighting that mimics sunlight) to help plants grow faster and healthier, maximize growth rates, and enhance higher nutrient density. The FarmBox includes separate water tanks and advanced filters to create an ideal environment for plants to thrive, free from mold and other threats.

“The FarmBox uses programmable logic (PLC) to operate lights, pumps, timers, valves, and other equipment to grow the product,” said George O’Clair, MCC Electromechanical Technology Faculty. “The Electrical Mechanical Technology (ELMT) students study PLCs to operate those same items and more. The FarmBox will be beneficial to the class to see an operating PLC in action.”

The FarmBox provides an environment to grow lettuce, kale, cherry tomatoes, peppers, micro greens, herbs, edible flowers, tree seedlings, and more. A workstation in the FarmBox is equipped with three shelves for seedling trays, optimizing the germination process. With over 3,888 plant spots dedicated to seedling growth, the FarmBox will provide a steady supply of healthy plants for cultivation throughout the year. Its design includes movable walls, providing an ideal space for students and faculty to inspect plants, transplant, and harvest easily while also providing ADA accessibility.

“I plan to integrate the FarmBox into courses such as agribusiness, agriculture marketing, and general crop production, providing students with hands-on experiences in nontraditional farming methods,” stated Bill Miller, MCC Precision Agriculture Faculty. “I am excited about introducing this innovative initiative to our campus to enhance agricultural education overall. My goal is to collaborate with the community to expand food sources.”

The MCC FarmBox merges agriculture with science by using precision agriculture for optimal resource use, employing biotech for enhanced crop traits, and utilizing controlled environments like vertical farming. Data analytics will aid in decision-making, promoting sustainability through reduced efforts and enhanced productivity. The FarmBox combines scientific innovation with traditional farming to improve efficiency, sustainability, and crop resilience.

“The FarmBox will provide an opportunity for our students to look at how various nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, and other chemicals affect different plants in a controlled environment,” stated Dr. Steven Sjostedt, MCC Chemistry Faculty.

Other faculty at MCC plan to use the FarmBox, as well. “The bringing of students and faculty from different disciplines together to utilize the FarmBox is very exciting!” said Dr. Erik Richter, MCC Dean of Workforce Development.

The FarmBox will play a vital role in contributing to the community’s nutritional needs through various initiatives such as vouchers for MCC students and staff to access fresh vegetables and partnerships with key community stakeholders to supply fresh and locally grown food options.

“Originally the FarmBox was an alternative to a traditional greenhouse at Morgan Community College,” said Dr. Curt Freed, MCC President.  “However, the FarmBox represents so much more and provides a living example for students to be involved in hands-on learning, a benchmark of the student experience at MCC.  I hope the community will join us for the first Harvest Open House on July 11.”

The MCC FarmBox was purchased with funding through a U.S. Department of Education Title III STEM grant.

MCC is now registering students for fall semester. Courses begin August 19, 2024. The Fall 2024 course schedule and information about registering is available at morgancc.edu/fall.

For more information about the MCC FarmBox and related programs, contact Dr. Erik Richter, Dean of Workforce Development at (970) 542-3166 or erik.richter@morgancc.edu.

About Morgan Community College:
With a main campus in Fort Morgan, Morgan Community College serves a large region in Northeast Colorado.  The college is committed to providing high-quality education, fostering student success, and serving as a catalyst for economic and community development. Additional information is available at MorganCC.edu.

About FarmBox Foods, LLC.:
FarmBox Foods is dedicated to transforming global food systems through sustainable, locally sourced farming solutions. By leveraging cutting-edge technology and eco-friendly practices, FarmBox Foods aims to promote food security and environmental stewardship worldwide.

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