Finished in 2017, there is a 1,800-square-foot urban agriculture greenhouse and urban farm on the University's East Campus. In addition to being a full scale agricultural production site, this location also doubles as a testing ground where university researchers and students can work with community members to develop new and efficient ways to grow and develop organic and sustainable produce.
The greenhouse structure and surrounding site were designed, and are operated, with a strong focus on sustainability. Faculty and students from UMass Lowell's Energy Engineering program are conducting research at the greenhouse with a focus on the food/water/energy nexus. The structure itself uses a combination of active and passive solar energy to produce much of the energy needed for the greenhouse to be operational. Produce is grown on a seasonal and regionally specific schedule with the associated energy and water use researched and analyzed. Soil used on the site comes from compost generated from UMass Lowell's award winning food waste diversion program which is instituted at each of our dining facilities. As the site is located within the 100-foot buffer of the Merrimack River, innovative rain and storm water capture techniques have been employed. Collectively, these approaches, which mirror larger capital projects at the university, result in considerable environmental benefit. They also provide significant economic savings to UMass Lowell through a reduction in utility costs.
Twenty percent of the produce grown at the UMass Lowell site is donated back to community members, including the UMass Lowell student food pantry. In addition, produce grown at the site is available through the Massachusetts Healthy Incentives Program (HIP). This matches Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients' purchases of local fruits and vegetables in order to drive healthier and more environmentally sustainable consumption methods in low-income communities.