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Title: Systems assessment of water savings impact of controlled environment agriculture (CEA) utilizing wirelessly networked Sense•Decide•Act•Communicate (SDAC) systems.

Reducing agricultural water use in arid regions while maintaining or improving economic productivity of the agriculture sector is a major challenge. Controlled environment agriculture (CEA, or, greenhouse agriculture) affords advantages in direct resource use (less land and water required) and productivity (i.e., much higher product yield and quality per unit of resources used) relative to conventional open-field practices. These advantages come at the price of higher operating complexity and costs per acre. The challenge is to implement and apply CEA such that the productivity and resource use advantages will sufficiently outweigh the higher operating costs to provide for overall benefit and viability. This project undertook an investigation of CEA for livestock forage production as a water-saving alternative to open-field forage production in arid regions. Forage production is a large consumer of fresh water in many arid regions of the world, including the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico. With increasing competition among uses (agriculture, municipalities, industry, recreation, ecosystems, etc.) for limited fresh water supplies, agricultural practice alternatives that can potentially maintain or enhance productivity while reducing water use warrant consideration. The project established a pilot forage production greenhouse facility in southern New Mexico based on a relatively modest and passive (nomore » active heating or cooling) system design pioneered in Chihuahua, Mexico. Experimental operations were initiated in August 2004 and carried over into early-FY05 to collect data and make initial assessments of operational and technical system performance, assess forage nutrition content and suitability for livestock, identify areas needing improvement, and make initial assessment of overall feasibility. The effort was supported through the joint leveraging of late-start FY04 LDRD funds and bundled CY2004 project funding from the New Mexico Small Business Technical Assistance program at Sandia. Despite lack of optimization with the project system, initial results show the dramatic water savings potential of hydroponic forage production compared with traditional irrigated open field practice. This project produced forage using only about 4.5% of the water required for equivalent open field production. Improved operation could bring water use to 2% or less. The hydroponic forage production system and process used in this project are labor intensive and not optimized for minimum water usage. Freshly harvested hydroponic forage has high moisture content that dilutes its nutritional value by requiring that livestock consume more of it to get the same nutritional content as conventional forage. In most other aspects the nutritional content compares well on a dry weight equivalent basis with other conventional forage. More work is needed to further explore and quantify the opportunities, limitations, and viability of this technique for broader use. Collection of greenhouse environmental data in this project was uniquely facilitated through the implementation and use of a self-organizing, wirelessly networked, multi-modal sensor system array with remote cell phone data link capability. Applications of wirelessly networked sensing with improved modeling/simulation and other Sandia technologies (e.g., advanced sensing and control, embedded reasoning, modeling and simulation, materials, robotics, etc.) can potentially contribute to significant improvement across a broad range of CEA applications.« less
Authors:
; ;  [1] ;  [2] ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [3] ; ; ; ; ; ;  [4] ;  [1] ; ;  [1] ; ;  [1]
  1. (University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX)
  2. (University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ)
  3. (New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM)
  4. (Invernaderos y Maquinaria Aguirre, Cd., Aldama, Chihuahua, Mexico)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
922067
Report Number(s):
SAND2005-0759
TRN: US200803%%289
DOE Contract Number:
AC04-94AL85000
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Sandia National Laboratories
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; AGRICULTURE; BUSINESS; DESIGN; DOMESTIC ANIMALS; ECONOMICS; ECOSYSTEMS; FORAGE; FRESH WATER; GREENHOUSE GASES; HEATING; IMPLEMENTATION; MOISTURE; NUTRITION; OPERATING COST; OPTIMIZATION; VIABILITY; WATER USE Water conservation.; Agriculture-Environmental aspects.; Agriculture; New Mexico.; Wireless communication systems.