Autonomous Controlled‐Environment Growth Chamber Display (SP0176)

Status: ONGOING November 2017 - 

The Autonomous Controlled-Environment Growth Chamber Display project seeks to utilize innovative technologies to create an autonomous controlled-environment food production system for the Macdonald Farm Community Engagement Centre. The growth chamber will be used to educate the community with regards to sustainable food production and controlled-environment agriculture. 

Read the full project description

Fresh local produce is hard to come by during winter months in Montreal. Controlled-environment agriculture is a way to provide sustainably produced vegetables during winter months. Locally-grown food is particularly important to the global sustainability movement as imported goods are often produced and transported in unsustainable ways. 

Currently, McGill's Macdonald campus lacks a showcase of the research being done on campus. The Macdonald Campus Community Engagement Centre will be a resource for the education of the Montreal community about more conventional agricultural practices, but would not be complete without this new system, showcasing the agriculture of the future. This will provide the McGill community with an window into research of sustainable agricultural technologies and hopefully encourage the creation of more student-run sustainability initiatives.

This project encompasses the design and construction of a fully autonomous vegetable production system. An enclosed system, the display will contain a variety of cutting-edge agricultural technologies, allowing for the irrigation, lighting, and HVAC systems to operate independent of human interaction. The display will be as transparent as possible, to showcase the different stages of plant growth, and how the technology allows it to occur. Mature plants will be available for pickup from the machine on a regular basis, providing a steady supply of fresh produce to be used by clubs on campus, or by the McGill Farm Community Outreach Centre for visitors. Our hope is that the system will educate visitors on the current advancements in urban agriculture technology and provide a moderate supply of fresh produce as an interactive feature. This technology can eventually be scaled up, for mass production, or brought into the home, to allow for fresh local produce production year round. As the system is autonomous, it will not need intensive management once it is installed. The Macdonald Farm Community Engagement Centre employees will only need to collect the vegetables the system produces, and occasionally refill the unit with seed and fertilizer.

The system will be designed with the intention of being as environmentally friendly as possible, with a focus on using minimal water and fertilizers to nourish crops. All the features of the system highlight the progress that has been done in sustainable controlled-environment agriculture, from the irrigation to the material choices.

Funds from the SPF will be used to purchase all tools, equipment, and supplies, as well as compensate for the design, fabrication, and installation. 

Contact

rachael.warner [at] mail.mcgill.ca (Rachael Warner)