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Indiana College Explores Sustainable Agriculture Technology

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A team of researchers at Purdue University Northwest College of Technology are taking advanced agriculture technology to the next level thanks to more than $1 million in funding. The funding, a combination of federal and private, will be used on campus and in a greenhouse now being built at the Digital Crossroad Data Center, located in Hammond, Indiana. The United States Economic Development Administration’s Scaling Pandemic Resilience Through Innovation and Technology Challenge–known as the SPRINT Challenge–is funding nearly three-quarters of the grant. The college is one of 44 grant recipients nationwide.

“We are excited to be awarded [the] grant to support this innovative project,” said Niaz Latif, dean of Purdue Northwest’s College of Technology. “This transformative work will create jobs and have a positive economic impact.”

Photo Courtesy Roman Synkevych

Additional funding comes from Digital Crossroad, the group that will be building the greenhouse at Hammond’s Indiana Data Center. Purdue Northwest will use the money on a project known as TRAVERSE (agTech Robotics, Automation, and Virtually Employed Resiliently Scaling Enterprises). This project focuses on robotics and advanced manufacturing, with an emphasis on remote harvesting and planting various crops. The greenhouse itself is sustainable and will be powered by waste heat from the Data Center.

“TRAVERSE and the new Digital Crossroad data center in Hammond are great examples of the transformation happening in Northwest Indiana,” said Digital Crossroad Managing Member Thomas Dakich. “Together, we are forming the foundation for a digital economy that will bring additional investment and jobs to the region.”

Agriculture technology can make a huge impact on the country’s sustainable future. First, it brings more jobs to local economies, lessening the need to import foods and products from overseas. Less imports means fewer emissions. On a smaller scale, the work at Purdue is designed to improve the efficiency of growing crops, shrinking energy use and carbon footprints as a result.

Photo Courtesy Dietmar Reichle

The federal SPRINT grant program focuses on supporting scalable, technology-driven projects that problem solve the health and safety risks caused by the recent pandemic. Most of these projects are tied to remote, virtual work. It’s the logical next step for its umbrella organization the Economic Development Administration’s Build to Scale Program, designed to trigger the economy and support sustainable job growth across America. Grants range from $200,000 to $750,000.

Other SPRINT grant recipients include Launch NY, which is focusing on virtual mentorship programs; a Personal Protective Equipment  product supply and development lab at the Medical Center of the Americas Foundation; a Philadelphia start-up support program at the University City Science Center and the University of Louisville’s PRePARE program, which focuses on technology that reduces pandemic-related health and safety risks. SPRINT is also supporting the Vice Chancellor’s Office of Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Economic Development at the University of North Carolina on an entrepreneurial hub that supports start-ups in high-tech research and development through mentorship, counseling, and capital funds. Numerous other universities received grants to focus on holistic, sustainable solutions to entrepreneurs’ needs: including the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and Wayne State University Research and Technology Park. A full list of grantees and the sustainable, economy-stimulating projects they are working on can be found here.


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