Northern Michigan University has launched a bachelor’s degree program in indoor agriculture, two years after the successful launch of an associate’s degree in the field.
The expansion comes as indoor cultivation becomes a booming agricultural sector and demand for indoor cultivation experts explodes from the legal cannabis industry.
Kimberly Smith Kolasa, an assistant professor of indoor agriculture who helped start the associate program, said the bachelor’s program was launched smoothly after NMU administrators approved it in April, but the program s would scale up and market aggressively next year after construction. should be done on building a 3,200 square foot vertical indoor truss.
Evan Lucas, a construction management professor at the school, and biology professor Donna Becker were Kolasa’s partners in setting up and running the program.
This farm will be part of the new Quarry Technology and Engineering Facility in the school’s Jacobetti Complex, a $28.6 million, 167,000 square foot construction that includes $20 million from the state from Michigan.
Currently, associate’s degree students are growing cultures in a small 2,223 square foot lab at the Jacobetti Center.
They are also growing crops in a specially retrofitted shipping container that arrived at the Jacobetti Center last September, purchased with a $100,000 grant from the Michigan Rural Development Fund and 30% matching from the NMU.
The container was purchased from Freight Farms Greenery of New Jersey. It included state-of-the-art cultivation equipment, including LED lighting to stimulate plant growth and cloud-based software that allows water, nutrient and pH levels to be monitored and controlled remotely. by smartphone.
So far, students have raised leafy greens such as lettuce, kale, and bok choy; herbs such as basil, lavender and rosemary; edible flowers such as pansies, zinnias and marigolds; and fruit crops like cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and summer squash.
Currently, the program has a contract with the school’s food services to purchase whatever it can grow for student consumption. Kolasa hopes that when the new vertical farm goes live, the program will produce enough crops to also sell to restaurants and stores in the Marquette area.