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Innovative Smart Farm Arrives at UMES for Research and Education

Delivery of an innovative, fully automated, controlled environment Freight Farm is on its way to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. The vertical hydroponic agricultural system housed inside of a 320-square-foot (tractor trailer-sized) container will expand research and education opportunities for faculty and students.

“When the system is up and running, the potential is also there for educational outreach and extension activities in the way of tours and demonstrations,” said Corrie Cotton, a research assistant professor at UMES, who along with Dr. Sadanand Dhekney, a professor of plant breeding and biotechnology, are lead on the project.

Cotton said some of those potential external audiences may include small farmers and community gardeners through UMES Extension, science-minded youth in the community through UMES’ 4-H STEM program and agricultural youth programs such as Jr. MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences).

“The smart farm is a unique space-saving option for growing agricultural crops year-round,” Cotton said. “We are looking forward to using it to expand our previous research of ethnic crop production (edamame, purslane and tatsoi) in high tunnels using deep water culture and the Kratky method (pictured above). Traditional planting in soil serves as the control.”

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