(Pelican Rapids, Minn.)—After their first produce sale to Larry’s Supermarket in Pelican Rapids, Minn., Lake Region Electric Cooperative’s (LREC) latest pilot program is in full production. Since purchasing a hydroponic GroShed, LREC has been learning the ins and outs of hydroponics and what it takes to grow different varieties of lettuce and peppers. In addition, LREC has been using the GroShed as an example of beneficial electrification using renewable energy sources.
“The process of growing hydroponic vegetables has been fun and challenging,” states Candace Rastedt, an LREC employee who volunteers in the GroShed. “Figuring out planting and harvest timelines, along with which varieties thrive best in a hydroponic setting has been like an exciting science experiment these past few months.”
With hydroponics, plants flourish because they are receiving a constant flow of fertilized water and optimum LED lighting every 12 hours. These perfect conditions increase plant development and cut grow time by a few weeks. At one time, LREC’s hydroponic GroShed can produce 144 lettuce plants across four vertical growing racks and 26 pepper plants within their wrap around growing area on the adjacent wall. Currently, LREC is growing romaine and buttercrunch lettuce and poblano and habanero peppers.
“Once our GroShed was delivered, we met with both Larry’s and Manna Food Co-op to see what their needs were,” says Dylan Aafedt, another LREC employee volunteer. “Our goal is to provide our local communities with the opportunity to purchase fresh, organic, locally grown produce year-round.”
Even with the recent harvest, LREC says there is still a lot to learn about hydroponics in general. The team still experiences setbacks occasionally but are working to eventually have a smooth operation with predictable harvest timelines and quantities. “The more we understand and can improve, the better it will be for those relying on our produce,” says Hannah Cox, another LREC employee volunteer. “At the end of the day, we are here to serve our communities as best as we can and if that future involves hydroponics, we want to jump in feet first.”
LREC’s hydroponic GroShed is an example of beneficial electrification and positive renewable energy uses. Around 50-60% of GroShed’s power source comes from the LREC GoWest solar array located at their headquarters. The secondary source of power is the wind-solar hybrid which powers the Erhard substation and is the energy source for LREC’s headquarters. In total, the GroShed is served by approximately 70% renewable resources and is a great beneficial electrification opportunity for research and development.
“Beneficial electrification and renewable energy are important to us and our members,” says Aafedt. “This pilot project could open a new industry for LREC and the surrounding communities.”
If you would like to learn more about LREC’s hydroponic GroShed or take a tour, please call (800) 552-7658. For more information on LREC’s renewable energy opportunities, please visit lrec.coop.
Lake Region Electric Cooperative is a member-owned, member-controlled electric utility serving more than 28,000 services in Otter Tail and Wilkin counties and portions of surrounding counties. This institution is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
Photo: LREC’s hydroponic romaine lettuce ready for purchase at Larry’s Supermarket in Pelican Rapids, Minn.