ComEd collaborates with EPRI to deploy agricultural pods for shipping in Illinois

Published on December 28, 2023 by Chris Galford

© Shutterstock

The agricultural community in Illinois secured a win this month, with ComEd’s announcement of a partnership with the independent nonprofit energy research and development institute EPRI to install four agricultural pods across the state.

The pods are modified, climate-controlled shipping containers meant to help keep locally sourced produce healthy year-round. Creation of a microclimate therein is achieved through a mix of high-efficiency HVAC systems, recirculating water pumps, dehumidification systems and sensors. These pods will also act as educational opportunities, as ComEd uses them to participate in EPRI’s 16-month national study of the opportunities provided by indoor food production and controlled environment agriculture (CEA) farm operations.

Data will ultimately be collected and published to provide lessons learned and best practices for the public.

“ComEd is proud to collaborate on this exciting project that will help sustainably increase access to healthy food in our communities and provide agricultural learning opportunities using this innovative farming method,” Gil Quiniones, CEO of ComEd, said. “By helping the agriculture industry understand how lighting, water use and other systems impact plant production, we can help expand food resource options for disadvantaged communities across the areas we serve.”

Ideally, the containers will allow for year-round local production of various crops regardless of the conditions outside. Each farm also includes an system allowing farmers to remotely control lighting, temperature and watering conditions to create the settings appropriate to their respective produce. EPRI and ComEd will also evaluate each farm’s operation in real-time through customized monitoring and verification systems.

“Indoor agriculture is a rapidly emerging industry across the United States. We’re seeing innovative designs, technologies, and energy applications that not only help achieve year-round crop cultivation but also contribute to the community,” Arshad Mansoor, president and CEO of EPRI, said. “EPRI is excited to include ComEd as part of this larger collaborative project and explore potential opportunities from this CEA farm to benefit the northern Illinois community.”

All four pods are operational as of early December. They will be managed, respectively, by the Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative, Grow Greater Englewood, Northern Illinois University’s Edible Campus program and Young Mens Educational Network.