Controlled Environment Agriculture

Expanding insights to controlled environment horticultural markets

Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the United States’ economy. From microgreens to tomatoes to berries, some producers grow crops indoors in response to market dynamics or as part of their preferred farming practice. Energy-driven systems (primarily lighting, HVAC, and dehumidification) control growing environments by maintaining the proper conditions for crops to thrive and produce.

A shared challenge faced by producers, their supply chain partners, governments, utilities, and researchers is the sparse guidance on efficient production of horticultural yields. There are only a few peer-reviewed best practices for CEA, limited numbers of government policies or codes informed by cultivators, and virtually no industry standards to guide decision-making.

We are here to provide tools and resources to help producers succeed.

Resource Innovation Institute was formed in early 2016 to address the energy impacts of cannabis cultivation. RII publishes peer-reviewed reports and best practices guidance on resource efficient cultivation and serves cultivators and supply chain partners with PowerScore, the first resource benchmarking platform designed for CEA facilities. Using data from PowerScore, RII was the first organization to publish actual energy performance data representative of a statistical sample of legal cannabis cultivation facilities in their Cannabis Energy Report, co-authored with New Frontier Data, a leading data & analytics reporting organization.

In February 2020, RII hosted and ACEEE sponsored the Indoor Agriculture Energy Solutions conference where producers of a range of crops grown in various controlled environments were brought together with leading governments, utilities and supply chain members to advance common objectives.

Starting in 2021, Resource Innovation Institute (RII) and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) will receive nearly $600,000 over three years from the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program at the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. The project was one of 24 projects selected for the 2020 program. RII and ACEEE will jointly implement the project through 2023. Read the November 2020 press release here.

Authorized by the 2002 Farm Bill, the CIG program helps develop the tools, technologies and strategies to support next-generation conservation efforts on working lands and develop market-based solutions to resource challenges. 

The awarded proposal, titled Data-Driven Market Transformation for Controlled Environment Agriculture, will characterize key performance indicators, baseline data, and facility-level benchmarking for controlled environmental agriculture facilities. The project will develop a comprehensive suite of data tools, coupled with a market intervention strategy to address barriers to energy conservation, adoption of energy-efficient technologies, access to energy use data, and best practices.

“We’ve been assessing energy and water use in the resource-intensive indoor cultivation sector for years and have built a set of vetted tools and resources that will now be extended to the broader controlled environment agriculture marketplace,” said Derek Smith, Executive Director of Resource Innovation Institute. “We appreciate the support of the USDA as well as leading producers, supply chain actors, universities, utilities, governments, standards organizations and other project partners.”

“Market transformation is a proven strategy for creating and sustaining energy efficiency improvements in energy-intensive market sectors,” said Jennifer Amann, ACEEE’s Buildings Program Director. “With USDA’s support, we’ll engage leading CEA market actors, utilities, and policymakers to demonstrate market transformation’s potential to drive resource efficiency in the fast-growing and innovative CEA market.”

With cannabis as a foundation of our controlled environment agriculture expertise, RII and its partners embark and establish innovative market transformation efforts to accelerate resource efficiency throughout controlled environment horticulture.

Key deliverables of our market transformation efforts include:

  1. Characterize the CEA market.
  2. Build strategic partnerships with a diverse range of market actors to develop a collaborative market intervention strategy.
  3. Provide resources for producer and workforce education and training. 
  4. Prove the effectiveness of resource benchmarking and energy use monitoring in improving the energy performance of CEA facilities. 
  5. Support a robust policy infrastructure for efficient CEA.
  6. Provide guidance to utilities and other efficiency program administrators on incorporating this market transformation initiative into their program portfolios. 
  7. Recognize high-performance operations with a voluntary certification system.

We invite you to join us in this journey. Please reach out if you’d like to discuss our strategy and services.