Courtesy Haywood Community CollegeJohn Roberts (center) is the primary project investigator of a grant to explore geothermal energy to pre-cool fresh produce. Assisting with the project are (at left) Linda Lamp, representative of the TVA Ag & Forestry Fund, and N. David Smith (right), North Carolina's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services chief deputy commissioner.Harnessing the earth’s geothermal energy to pre-cool fresh produce is the subject of a research project at Haywood Community College, Clyde, N.C.
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture provided a $50,000 grant to help pay for the project, which is headed by John Roberts, a building construction instructor at the community college, according to a news release from the school.
Demonstrating the efficiency of geothermal chilling is part of the purpose behind the project, but showing that the technology is effective in extending the shelf life of fresh produce is also on the researchers’ agenda. The researchers will work with the firm Reece, Noland and McElrath Engineers Inc. on the geothermal project.
Commodities grown in western North Carolina are the target crops for this project, according to the release, but other regions of the U.S. could use similar technology for other commodities.
Area growers are encouraged to visit the project at the state agriculture department’s Mountain Research Station, which is a 398-acre facility in Haywood County.
In addition to demonstrating the durability and low maintenance of geothermal systems, the project principals will work with area growers and offer them suggestions for customized options that would be most efficient for their individual operations, school officials said in the release.
The school is also offering a three-session course on the basics of geothermal technology. The weekly sessions are scheduled to begin Oct. 8. Interested growers and others can call (828) 627-4505 for registration information.