Posts (Most Recent)

  • Shedding Some Light in the Shed – Lighting for Indoor Work on the Farm
    As the days shorten and we turn the clocks back, it may be a great time to think about installing or improving lights in some of our indoor spaces. Maybe you could use a bit more light to see the drill size marking in the workshop. Or, perhaps, you’d like to be able to sort […]
  • The Ag Engineering Podcast
    Where we talk tools, tips and techniques to improve the sustainability of your farm Andy was awarded a 2019 Northeast SARE Grant to produce The Ag Engineering Podcast. In this podcast, we share tools, tips and techniques to improve sustainability on your farm. It was launched in December 2019. This podcast features short-format, easy to […]
  • Safe and Efficient Drying and Curing of CBD Hemp
    UVM Extension Agricultural Engineering, Resource Innovation Institute, Efficiency Vermont, and VT Division of Fire Safety recently teamed up to provide a webinar as part of the UVM Extension NW Crops and Soils Team Hemp and UVM Extension New Farmer Project series. This session focused on safely and efficiently drying and curing hemp to support customer […]
  • Ventilation in Greenhouses and High Tunnels
    I had the pleasure of facilitating a workshop at the 2019 NOFA-MA Summer Conference about Ventilation in Greenhouses and High Tunnels. It provided an opportunity to collect information from various sources, ground truth observations with growers, and to revisit some fundamentals. The big takeaway, for me, is that there are many, many ways to ventilate […]
  • Summer Twilight Series – Event Schedule
    Join us on our series of 2019 On-Farm Workshop for Commercial Vegetable and Berry Growers! Attendance at these events is free for members of the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association. The cost is $10 per-person for non-members, payable on-site. Refreshments will be served. Membership in the VVBGA costs $55 per farm, per calendar year. […]
  • Getting Started with a Growth Chamber
    We’ve received a number of inquiries about building germination chambers so we have decided to provide some consolidated resources and guidance. An important first step is to consider what the purpose of the chamber actually is.  There are a number of horticultural practices that benefit from dedicated, environmentally controlled spaces. These include germination, starting, propagation/transplanting, […]
  • Briquetting a Better, Burnable Cow Patty
    Chris recently served as a technical advisor to Rose Marie Belforti on her recent NE-SARE funded project to demonstrate a hydraulic press used to make fuel briquettes from manure and bedding.  The machine, dubbed the “Biomass Beast” by Rose, was built for $5,766 and Rose demonstrated production of briquettes at a rate of 90 dry […]
  • The AZS Rinse Conveyor at Picadilly Farm
    Picadilly Farm is owned and operated by Jenny and Bruce Wooster since 2006. Their farm is located in the South East Corner of New Hampshire in Winchester and has about 30 acres in production. They provide fresh produce to over 1,000 families through CSA shares spread across New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts. Bruce reached out […]
  • DewRight Debut: From Product to Patent
    This video is an episode from Across the Fence! It holds an interview with Judy Simpson as well as a description of the product. The video below highlights the 9min segment specifically talking about the DewRight. Read the write up from Vermont Business Magazine here. Read the press release from UVM’s University Communications here. Related posts: VPR Series […]
  • Spring Cleaning – Farm Cooler Checklist
    Whether your winter storage rooms are getting bare or you are making the transition from sweet corn to potatoes, what better time to give your cooler a once over than right now? Download the Farm Cooler Checklist to help guide your walk-through. Highlights include: Cleaning, sanitizing and inspection of surfaces Checking the envelope Inspecting refrigeration […]
  • Improved Ventilation for High Tunnels
    I have received many inquiries about how to improve ventilation of high tunnels from growers with tunnels that have only roll-up sides. The issues they are facing tend to be either high temp, high humidity or both, leading to plant stress or disease. These situations tend to be in less than ideal sites for ventilation […]
  • Pumps and Pipes
    “Will the 007 be enough?”  is a common question in early spring as greenhouses around the region fire up and we do our best to keep seed trays and their cargo warm on the still-cool nights.  My mind instantly goes to “which movie?” And then I crash back to earth and realize this is a […]
  • Thermostats for Agriculture
    I am often asked by growers and processors to recommend a thermostat for a greenhouse, cooler, or postharvest process use.  There are many to choose from and their specifications can be confusing. It is important to remember just what a thermostat does. It is essentially no different from the light switch on the wall with […]
  • Vermont Farmers Food Center Heats with Biomass
    UVM Extension and others supported the recent installation of a 341,200 BTU/hr (output) multi-fuel biomass boiler at the Vermont Farmers Food Center (VFFC) in Rutland, VT.  The boiler heats the Farmer’s Hall building with the capability to use several alternative fuels to displace propane. The boiler was fueled primarily on wood pellets but was also […]
  • Grass and “Ag Biomass” Competitive with Wood Chips
    Recent testing at the Meach Cove Trust has demonstrated strong economic and technical feasibility of grass-based biomass combustion fuels.  The use of solid, densified, cellulosic biomass fuels has been well demonstrated with wood pellets in residential and light commercial systems and wood chips in larger, often centralized systems.  The Grass Energy Partnership of the Vermont […]
  • Update on Heating Greenhouses with Biomass
    This project demonstrated the use of biomass heating for greenhouse vegetable production at sites across Vermont. From 2008 through 2015, 25 growers received cost-share funds for greenhouse biomass heating systems. Related posts: Biomass Heating in Vermont Greenhouses Vermont On-Farm Biodiesel – Costs of Production Solar Hot Water Heating in Vermont Greenhouses Oilseed Economics Update 2014 […]
  • Calculating Greenhouse and High Tunnel Heat Loss
    I am often asked by growers to help estimate what size heater is needed for a greenhouse or what minimum temperature their high tunnel will reach at a certain outside temperature.  Below are some tools to help you do this yourself.  I have presented them in a range of complexity depending on how much you […]
  • LED Lights – Status, Cost/Benefit and Pro’s and Cons
    I have been receiving several inquiries recently on supplemental lighting for greenhouse production. The most common question is “Should I install LED lights to support growing?” I have found one report to be the most complete and current on this topic and wanted to share it here. Economic Analysis of Greenhouse Lighting: Light Emitting Diodes […]
  • Simple DIY Outside Air Exchange
    In colder climates winter storage crops have been stored in passive root cellars for centuries, striking the balance between outside conditions and storage conditions. Although modern refrigeration systems are generally used for large scale, longer-term storage of these crops some enterprises seek lower cost and high energy efficiency options. Outside air exchange systems use an […]
  • Solar Hot Water Heating in Vermont Greenhouses
    Related posts: Biomass Heating in Vermont Greenhouses Efficiency Vermont Incentives for Agriculture
  • Biomass Heating in Vermont Greenhouses
    Related posts: Efficiency Vermont Incentives for Agriculture Vermont On-Farm Biodiesel – Costs of Production
  • Farm to Plate Energy Success Stories
    Vermont’s Comprehensive Energy Plan calls for obtaining 90% of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2050 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50% from a 1990 baseline. What role can Vermont’s food system play in advancing this goal? The Energy Cross-cutting Team of the Farm to Plate Network has released seven Energy Success Stories that showcase farms, businesses, […]
  • Oilseed Economics Update 2014
    Yesterday we held our annual Oilseed Producer’s Meeting.  At this meeting, I presented an economic overview of oilseeds in Vermont.  Ina nutshell, Vermont has an installed on-farm biodiesel capacity of 600,000 gal/yr (5 sites) with a normalized initial cost of $1/gal of capacity (better than national average). Fuel can be produced for an average cost […]
  • Vermont On-Farm Biodiesel – Costs of Production
    I recently co-authored a summary of the economics of on-farm biodiesel with Netaka White from the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.  This report collects the economic and logistic learning from the past seven years of the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative (VBI).  The VBI has supported a wide range of sustainable fuel related efforts in Vermont.  Along with […]
  • How Refrigerators Work: “Principles of Refrigeration”
    1944 US Office of Education video on refrigeration principles.  Excellent. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XADVDjzFW-4&feature=endscreen Related posts: Food Storage Survey Results
  • CoolBots(TM): Inexpensive Cold Storage
    A downloadable PDF of this blog post is available here. Demand for on-farm cold storage of produce is increasing as local markets for these goods expand. Many local producers are asking about CoolBots™, a tool that works with a window air-conditioner to make a cooler out of an insulated space. This article collects information about CoolBots […]
  • Energy and Waste in the Food System
    Although estimates vary, we invest about 14 calories of fossil fuel-based energy and 15-20 calories of energy in general into every 1 calorie of food produced.  And (here’s the kicker) 30-50% of the food produced never makes it to a digestive track.  So those energy input numbers are actually low by any true measure of […]
  • FIDO – A Do-it-yourself Temperature Monitor with Text Message Alerts
    As I’ve mentioned in several other posts, I think the continual monitoring of conditions in greenhouses and food storage spaces is incredibly important for quality and safety and insightful for any operation. There is a really clever design for a do-it-yourself temperature monitoring system called Fido, on the FarmHack site.  It uses an Arduino control […]
  • Bioenergy NOW!
    The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative, a project of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund recently released a series of videos summarizing their bioenergy related projects through-out Vermont. Visit the YouTube channel for all the videos. No related posts.
  • Remote Data Monitoring – 1st Install at Pete’s Greens
    As an engineer, I love data.  It turns out farmers do also.  At least, Pete Johnson and Isaac Jacobs at Pete’s Greens in Craftsbury, VT do. “Is it working yet?” Isaac asks as I put the finishing touches on the remote data monitoring system we have been installing in the four zone drive-in cooler. “Just […]
  • Food Storage Survey Results
    Thanks to all of those who took the time to respond to the food storage survey several weeks back.  The information you provided has been really helpful.  A clear desire for additional programming in this area was expressed, and I’ll be working to develop that. Here are the survey result highlights: 82% of respondents expressed […]
  • Efficiency Vermont Incentives for Agriculture
          Are you considering any equipment upgrades in the near future.  Check Efficiency Vermont’s webpage to research available technologies and to see if any of their many incentives apply to you. They have a set of rebates specific to agriculture and some for commercial refrigeration which may apply to folks with refrigerated storage on […]
  • Food Storage Survey
    I’m collecting information on Vermont’s commercial food storage practices.  This is most commonly a walk-in cooler or freezer on the farm or at a food hub, but there is room in the survey to tell me all about the other ways you store food.  The purpose of the survey is to provide a baseline against […]
  • Food System Energy Use
    Thanks to Eric Garza (UVM RSENR) for putting me onto this dense and fascinating report that summarizes the energy use in our food system. I was surprised to learn the per capita energy use in our food system increased significantly from 1997 to 2002. From the report; “Energy is an important input in growing, processing, […]

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