(Above photo: Tour participants learn how the Fenway sensors monitor greenhouse growing conditions.)
The LABS team led a tour of two food security pilots in Southeastern Massachusetts this week. The tour group consisted of alumni from Leadership South Coast and representatives from a number of innovation, research and academic institutions in MA and RI, including: Rhode Island College, UMASS, Rhode Island Tech Collective and others.
Sharing the Harvest: A Community Farm that Relieves Hunger
LABS Food Security Lead Liz Wiley began the tour at the Dartmouth YMCA Sharing the Harvest Farm Community Farm. The Farm was started in 2006 as a non-profit, volunteer-driven community farm whose mission is to relieve hunger at the local level. 100% of their produce and eggs are donated. Last year on 4.5 acres they donated 84,702 pounds of produce and 14,930 free range eggs. They average roughly 3,000 volunteer visits per year and nearly 10,000 service hours donated.
At Sharing the Harvest, LABS deployed a number of solutions aimed at helping the program better manage risk, cost and quality, including:
- Fenway multivariable environmental monitoring sensors by Analog Devices that monitor temperature, humidity and light in their greenhouse. Farm director Dan King explained to the group that conditions in the greenhouse can change rapidly, these sensors provide him with real-time, remote access to the data which allows him to respond quickly to rising temperatures and other issues when he is not on the farm.
- A groundwater level monitoring sensor gives him accurate information about the depth to water in their well, as well as pumping activity. Knowing depth to water helps them to manage water use wisely, while pumping activity can alert them to costly leaks.
- Soil condition monitoring sensors help the team confirm or revise their perception of soil conditions under row tarps that help extend the shorter New England growing seasons.
Salt Creek Vineyard: Growing Seven Varieties of Grapes
The second tour stop was Salt Creek Vineyard, just around the corner from Sharing the Harvest. Salt Creek grows seven varieties of grapes on three separate fields, which can vary greatly in climate conditions. Vintner, Skott Rebello, requires reliable data on the following four weather-related parameters: wind direction, wind speed, temperature and rainfall. This data supports his irrigation and pesticide management protocols. LABS has deployed two micro-climate weather stations at Salt Creek Vineyard to help Rebello manage his fields and a water quality sensor in his raintank to monitor pH levels.
Not all the benefits of LABS pilots are aimed at the hosts. Startup companies and LABS Sponsors gain critical insight into how their technologies integrate and operate in live conditions. This value is a big draw for companies from major innovation centers across the US and overseas, many of whom are inquiring about work with LABS according to Managing Director Chris Rezendes.
Analog Devices, a LABS sponsor, plans to first deploy one of their latest Smart Agriculture solutions, Crop Connect, their new wireless environmental monitoring system specifically designed for applications in agriculture, at Sharing the Harvest this summer.
Tour participants were able to sample some of the wine produced at Salt Creek at the end of the day. Attendees from Leadership South Coast remarked that they were surprised to learn about the innovation in agriculture happening locally and representatives from Rhode Island left interested in replicating the LABS model across state lines.
Stewardship is an important part of what we do at LABS, and tours such as this allow us to educate local leaders and industry representatives about the potential for IoT to transform local agriculture. It is our hope that communities around the world will look to the LABS model to solve their own challenges and work towards a more resilient future.