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US (MA): Fitchburg container farm plans grand opening

Just three months after an eight-ton shipping container arrived on the Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School campus, the school is busy planning a grand opening ceremony. The event on Friday, 16 September, marks the official opening of the retrofitted container, a so-called “cargo farm” that will produce 1,450 pieces of leafy greens each month.

“The hydroponic farm is a collaboration between Leominster’s non-profit organization Growing Places and the Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School,” said Julie Blazar, Community Outreach Specialist at Monty Tech. “The shipping container was purchased with a $176,600 grant from the State Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and is capable of producing the equivalent of one hectare of land.”

The Cargo Farm grows to produce for the school cafeteria, the culinary arts program, and the community. “Over time, farming will become part of the school’s curriculum, with opportunities for students to explore the business, engineering, and environmental sciences,” Blazar said.

For this purpose, a conventional shipping container is retrofitted with an air-conditioned, water-based attachment. According to Jason Yeagle, director of Monty Tech Nutrition, the system uses a small fraction of the water needed to grow produce using traditional methods. The system also eliminates the need for pesticides, uses limited electricity, and reduces the carbon footprint associated with shipping food across the country.

“Monty Tech and Growing Places are natural innovation partners,” said Dayana Carlson, director of Monty Tech. “The Food Security Infrastructure Grant program aims to ensure equal access to locally grown produce. We are excited to leverage our campus resources to make this possible here in north central Massachusetts.”

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