Jefferson Elementary School was Pulaski County’s oldest. It was also the last of the county’s abandoned schools — before Oct. 11, anyway. It’s been crumbling since 1993 when it let out students for the final time. But a Pulaski-based business held an open house last month to celebrate its plans to renovate the century-old structure for an experimental, indoor farming project.
The pilot project is a collaboration between two companies in town — agriculture technology company Vegg Inc. and carbon-capture business MOVA Technologies — and the goal is to combine indoor, or vertical, agriculture with an experimental carbon capture system to create what company principals call carbon-neutral agriculture. If it works in the old school during the next year or so, they see a future in which they populate similar buildings on the Eastern Seaboard, revolutionizing both farming and sustainability. “We definitely can appreciate all the congratulations,” Vegg CEO Cody Journell told a group of residents, politicians, county and town officials, and investors on Oct. 11. “But there’s a lot of work.”
MOVA, which earlier this year was a member of the RAMP business accelerator cohort in Roanoke, received a $200,000 Department of Energy grant to conduct the pilot project in the renovated Jefferson School. While VEGG teams with Richmond-based Pod Farms LLC on tent-based hydroponic growing inside the school’s former auditorium, the MOVA technology, if it works in this particular system, would break new ground in controlled environment agriculture.
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