Published on 05/06/10

Ag energy research center breaks ground in Tifton

By Brad Haire

Farmers want to do things efficiently. It makes sound business sense. Ground was ceremonially broken in Tifton, Ga., May 3 for a center to help show them how to produce and use energy more efficiently on the farm.

“The Agriculture Energy Innovation Center is about innovation, development and demonstration of new systems for agriculture to develop and integrate techniques and technologies that will improve agricultural energy efficiencies,” said Craig Kvien, a UGA crop and soil sciences professor and the center’s leader. “The initiative builds on past and on-going programs.”

Center partners include private farms looking to use bio-energy crops or solar technology instead of propane to produce heat and electricity for farm use, and UGA and U.S. Department of Agriculture plant breeders who develop crops that require less energy and time to grow. Wireless technology to control and monitor farm equipment will also be developed and tested at the center.

Energy: Mission Critical

The main mission of the center, Kvien said, is to find ways to create energy-saving strategies or technologies that can be applied in a real-world way on a farm.

The center will be funded through a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The research and education activities in the initiative will take place in Georgia, said Congressman Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who attended the groundbreaking and garnered the funding for it, but the results can be applied to other parts of the nation.

"This will be the only one of its kind in the nation, but we hope the nation will benefit from its experiments," Kingston said.

Model home

The first building on the site will be a net-zero energy farm house and lab. It will be constructed using environmentally friendly or refurbished materials. It will be positioned for the solar panels in the roof to capture the most sunlight, which will provide electrical power. Water will be heated from heat captured under the roof. The house will need only one-third of the power of a normal home of similar size. It was designed by Cadmus Design-Build. The house’s landscape will include edible plants and fruit trees.

Students enrolled in the Green Technologies program at Moultrie Technical College will build the farm house, using it to learn construction techniques. Graduate students and scientists visiting the UGA Tifton campus will live in the house. It will also be open for educational tours to showcase ways to conserve and produce energy in the home.

Construction for the farm house will begin early next year.

Brad Haire is the former news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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