Utah tech company may hold the key to solving the world’s food problems and cutting water use while also fighting climate change

Good News Notes:

Before Utah’s searing, mega-drought summer, came the winter storm of 2021. In February tornadoes and ice storms swept across the nation causing massive damage. Hardest hit was Texas, where millions lost power, over 200 people died and economic damage exceeded $195 billion.

Agriculture saw devastated crops and livestock killed in massive numbers. Some family farmers even brought their livestock indoors to sit by the fire so they wouldn’t freeze to death.

It wasn’t just small farmers who got the idea, though.

“One of our clients is the owner of a big cattle ranch outside of Amarillo,” said Steve Lindsley, president of Grōv Technologies, a sustainable agriculture startup based in Vineyard, Utah. “He lost half his herd in that storm. He said he knew he had to go indoors. ‘If I can’t keep my animals healthy and safe in Texas anymore, I can’t do it anywhere.’”

Whether freak winter storms or endless heat waves, climate change is forcing agriculture to evolve. As an energy and water-intensive industry and a major producer of greenhouse gasses, most climate experts agree that evolution is a necessity.

At Utah’s largest dairy farm on the west side of Utah Lake, Grōv Technologies wants to demonstrate that it is possible to feed a hungry planet and fight climate change.

“Five hundred acres of food, on a third of an acre, using 5% of the water,” explains Lindsley, “that’s the story, but it’s just the beginning.”

Growing grass on Mount Olympus

If you’ve seen 1999′s “The Matrix,” walking into Grōv Technologies’ Elberta, Utah facility and meeting the towers might give you deja vu. Unlike in the film, this deja vu is nothing to worry about.

The technologies behind Grōv are the twinned Olympus farms: two-story cylinders that slowly but steadily rotate squares of wheat or barley grass through a rapid growth cycle — from seed to feed in seven days.

At one end of the first tower, a robotic dispenser fills a new 2-foot planter square with seed every four minutes with mesmerizing efficiency. That square will then slowly follow the track up the first tower, where it is flooded in shallow water, fed nutrients and builds a dense mat of root bed as it germinates.

Rotating into the second tower, it is bathed in LED grow lights, powerful enough to produce rapid growth but so efficient they are cool to the touch.

Finally, as the square of wheat grass reaches the bottom of the second tower, it is dumped without ceremony onto a conveyor belt, which carries it on its brief journey through the indoor farm to a delivery truck. When full, the vehicle will make a half-mile journey up the dirt road to where 7,500 dairy cows await the next shipment of fresh feed.

“With this system,” explains Lindsley, “we feed the cows fresh nutritious grass year-round, grown without pesticides, and minimal water and fertilizer with no runoff to rivers or lakes. We also use the best data monitoring available to ensure we provide the right nutrition for each animal.”

Grōv has partnered with the global information powerhouse, Amazon Web Services (AWS) on monitoring. “Grōv is using AWS machine learning and computer vision to improve the operational effectiveness of its tower farms by converting sensor data to meaningful insights,” said AWS Tech Lead for Agriculture, Karen Hildebrand. “These insights are used to improve the nutrition and yield of every harvest.”

The vertical farming system is named not after the home of the Greek gods, but after the Salt Lake Valley’s own Mount Olympus.

“Grōv is proud,” said Lindsley, “to be a local company solving a global problem.”

One solution to many problems


Grōv Technologies’ first priority is water conservation. Its system is extremely efficient, using 5% of the water of traditional agriculture by careful application and recycling of any excess….”

View the whole story here: https://www.sltrib.com/news/2021/08/16/it-grows-times-food-with/

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