Small farms are looking for ways to grow, no pun intended.
Between falling prices, trade wars, and climate change, it’s no surprise that a lot of small farms are struggling.
Some farmers around the country are looking to the newly emerging practice of harvesting the sun along with their crops. Right now it’s called “agrivoltaics”, but hopefully, a less awkward name will be coined soon.
Basically, farmers are building solar arrays with vegetables growing under, between, and around the rows of panels.
This approach could serve as a model for cash-strapped farmers by transforming underachieving crop fields into money-making centers of clean energy and fresh produce, two things we really like.
The benefits already look promising. Studies have shown that by creating a cooler, moister climate, the solar/veg setup increases crop efficiency and production.
Two test setups in Massachusetts and Arizona yielded over a 60% increase in vegetables like broccoli, tomatoes, and peppers. The shade and moisture from generated from the solar panels also cut down on the water supply needed to keep the veggies happy and healthy.
Although we can’t harvest all the energy we need from the sun (yet), projects like this are a promising step forward on the path to renewable energy and sustainable agriculture.
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