High-tech farming works in rural communities, too


In Arizona, technologies that allow astronauts and polar explorers to grow fresh foods in space and Antarctica can benefit rural communities, too. Dr. Gene Giacomelli, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at the University of Arizona, leads the university’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center. “We recognize the momentous historical change that CEA promotes for a non-farmer without land who may now become a significant producer of food as never before possible,” he said.

According to Giacomelli, the renaissance began in 2006 with increased use of high tunnels – low-cost, uncontrolled environments that extend growing seasons and produce more, high-quality crops. “The market brought demand, which created new businesses, or renovated older farm businesses,” he said.

Greenhouses have the potential to become a social magnet for communities by bringing people together for planting and harvesting activities. More advanced greenhouses creates a need for non-seasonal jobs that require knowledge-based training in biology and engineering.