Alaska Seeds of Change: Addressing Food Insecurity and Creating Opportunities for Youth

Alaska Seeds of Change: Addressing Food Insecurity and Creating Opportunities for Youth

Alaska Seeds of Change (Seeds of Change) is a social enterprise that runs an 8,000 square foot hydroponics grow space and produces fresh, nutritious, and locally-grown herbs, leafy greens, and strawberry crops. Their dual mission is to provide local produce for Anchorage and the wider Alaska community as well as supporting local at-risk youth. Alaska has many unique food security challenges. The outdoor growing season is very short, so the state imports over 95% of its food. Due to the state’s location, most food arrives by boat or plane, which can be easily delayed by bad weather. Additionally, half of the population is spread out across remote rural villages. Fresh produce is hard to come by and usually carries a high price tag when it is available. The grow space also serves as a vocational training platform for at-risk and underemployed youth. Their programs are designed to teach Anchorage youth aged 16-24 about farming, indoor horticulture, business management and other life skills geared toward helping them find and keep jobs.

Creating a Sustainable Business Model

In 2015, Seeds of Change was looking for a lighting solution that would meet the demand of their local restaurant market and operate efficiently as a profitable business model. Due to the unique requirements restaurants have versus the grocery store market, Seeds of Change needed to find a way to gain precision control over their crop yields and quality. Additionally, Seeds of Change hoped to customize crops specific to restaurants’ needs, while controlling flowering times to deliver consistently fresh produce.

Learning How to Grow Indoors

The Alaskan social enterprise contacted LumiGrow excited about the possibilities of a dynamic spectrum lighting solution. Seeds of Change implemented 360 Pro 325 fixtures in their 8,000 square foot warehouse. The fixtures were deployed using indoor towers.

The three full-time staff members immediately began running lighting trials. They were heartened by the quick results- they were able to decrease leaf curl and improve overall quality in chard by boosting light intensity.

“We are all new to hydroponics, so we’ve been learning a lot,” says Sundance Visser, Seeds of Change’s Operations Manager. With support from LumiGrow, they got the strategies dialed in to improve flavor and consistently hit precise flowering times to meet their restaurants’ needs.

“Other local facilities can barely be profitable due to the electricity usage of HPS.  We’re definitely seeing a huge savings in energy due to the LEDs. When we started growing in our second zone, our electric bill only went up one sixth!  Our savings are so much more than we ever expected!” -Lyndsey Kellard, Lead Grower at Alaska Seeds of Change

Impressive Savings and Successful Expansion

“What we’ve been able to accomplish with the dynamic LEDs is incredible! We’ve been able to cultivate better tasting crops of higher quality that’re more attractive to our restaurateurs,” says Lyndsey, who was Seeds of Change’s Lead Grower the year they implemented the lights. “Traditionally our basil had spicy ends that restaurants didn’t want, and it took lots of labor to go through and clip these. We’re now using spectrum to create a more appropriately flavored basil crop while saving on labor costs.”

Seeds of Change is also using LumiGrow fixtures to grow strawberries year-round and are currently the only facility doing so in Anchorage.

As far as profitability and energy-savings are concerned, Lyndsey reports that they’re also thrilled with the cost-savings:

“Other local facilities can barely be profitable due to the electricity usage of HPS. We’re definitely seeing a huge savings in energy due to the LEDs. When we started growing in our second zone, our electric bill only went up one sixth! Our savings are so much more than we ever expected!”

Seeds of Change started growing in a third zone in their warehouse in April 2018. The additional space allowed them to plant additional leafy greens and experiment with new crops like stevia.

They have also expanded to serve several Alaskan produce box delivery services and grocery stores.

“The produce boxes are delivered to people even in villages, where they may only have a small general store that doesn’t have much produce,” says Sundance, “They would need to fly to one of the major cities that has a grocery store to find produce otherwise.”

The expanded growing space has also created the opportunity for Seeds of Change’s youth employment program to grow. They have partnered with several Anchorage youth advocacy groups and anticipate that they will employ up to 20 youth growers this year.

“Choosing LumiGrow has been so good for our business,” says Lyndsey. “We definitely recommend them to anyone looking for customizing crop production with precision.”

 

Summary

  • Problem. Needed energy efficient sole-source lighting solution for year-round grow space
  • Solution. Installed 360 Pro Series e 325 fixtures; adjusted spectrum to inhibit flowering
  • Result. Low energy costs allow social enterprise to maintain sustainable revenue streams, scale efficiently, and expand youth employment programs

About LumiGrow, Inc.

LumiGrow, Inc., the leader in smart horticultural lighting, empowers growers and scientists with the ability to improve plant growth, boost crop yields, and achieve cost-saving operational efficiencies. LumiGrow offers a range of proven grow light solutions for use in greenhouses, controlled environment agriculture and research chambers.  LumiGrow solutions are eligible for energy-efficiency subsidies from utilities across North America.

LumiGrow has the largest horticultural LED install-base in the United States, with installations in over 30 countries.  Our customers range from top global agribusinesses, many of the world’s top 100 produce and flower growers, enterprise cannabis cultivators, leading universities, and the USDA. Headquartered in Emeryville, California, LumiGrow is privately owned and operated. For more information, call (800) 514-0487 or visit www.lumigrow.com.

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