Innovating to address food insecurity
Great River Energy, Maple Grove, Minnesota, is a wholesale power provider for 28 member-owner cooperatives across the state. “Concern for community” is one of seven cooperative guiding principles, and one we regularly showcase through donations, scholarships, volunteering and economic development opportunities. We often partner with our member co-ops on projects highlighting new electric technology.
Most recently, we’ve collaborated with Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative on a two-year indoor food production research project, ‘Sota Grown located in Staples, Minnesota. By utilizing this technology, where an entire hydroponic system is built inside a shipping container, produce can be grown closer to home throughout the year and can help solve food insecurity concerns in a rural area where high poverty coexists with high produce prices.
A significant amount of artificial lighting is needed for this process, but since we continue to incorporate more carbon-free sources of energy into our supply portfolio, the electricity used to grow produce indoors is becoming greener by the day.
The project team also includes the Ag and Energy Center at Central Lakes College, whose students are learning firsthand about sustainable agriculture practices by maintaining and harvesting the produce. Once harvested, it’s delivered to another project collaborator, Lakewood Health System, for its “Food Farmacy” program that feeds more than 600 people monthly in this food desert region.