COMMONWEALTH CHARTER ACADEMY AGWORKS

Objective:

Commonwealth Charter Academy (CCA), a K-12 Public Cyber Charter School based out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, contracted INTAG to design, engineer, and construct a state-of-the-art STEM research and education facility centered around Controlled Environment Agriculture technologies. The goal of this facility is to provide tangible laboratory learning opportunities and real-world vocational training to students.

Outcome:

The core of the research and education facility that INTAG implemented at CCA is 5,000 controlled environment growing lab outfitted with both aquaponic and hydroponic growing equipment. The aquaponic portion of this facility is comprised of (3) 600-gallon fish tanks housing tilapia and koi. The waste-water from these fish tanks is processed through INTAG patented bioreactor beds customized to the shape of the CCA logo. The nutrient-rich effluent from these is supplied to a wide range of crops being cultivated within the bioreactor beds themselves, deep water culture (DWC) float beds, and commercial-style vertical nutrient film technique (NFT) gutter arrays. The hydroponic portions of this facility include vertical grow towers and hydro-wheels, exposing students to the water chemistry and operational protocols of hydroponic food production.

The growing facility at CCA housing a wide range of crops, from culinary lettuces, microgreens, herbs, and kales, to fruiting plants, such as cocoa, lemons, bananas, and pineapples.

In addition to the main facility, INTAG engineered and constructed a lighting manipulation and growth trials lab, specifically designed to allow students to engage in cutting-edge plant growth trials under varying lighting conditions. This lab, as well as the main growing facility mentioned above, it outfitted with variable spectrum LED fixtures that allow for the manipulation and control of Daylight Integral (DLI, Daylength, and Spectrum Discharge. All key water quality and environmental parameters in the research labs and main growing environmental are monitored, logged, and alarmed using a custom interface.

To meet the client goals of providing students with career training in biology and biotech fields, INTAG designed and installed a professional-grade tissue culture lab, as well as an ISO-8 cleanroom microbiology lab centered around CRISPR genetics and zebra-fish rearing.

Background:

Cyber-charter schools face the challenge of ensuring that their students receive hands-on learning, lab training, and social skills such as team-building and problem-solving. The development of centralized laboratory facilities allows for students to come together to complete experiments and studies that teach the aforementioned skills.

INTAG learning and research facilities, such as the one implemented at Commonwealth Charter Academy (CCA), provide an ideal environment for students of wide age ranges to explore the many facets of STEM learning, including but not limited to botanical sciences, aquaculture, biology, chemistry, genetics, engineering, utilities, marketing, and business development.

Additionally, such facilities allow for the high-school students to engage in real-world lab work, providing them with valuable skills and resume material to prepare them for the job market or college enrollment. Students trained in centers like the one INTAG developed for CCA can be trained in commercial plant propagation and tissue culture, as well as cutting edge biological and genetic lab techniques such as CRISPR genetic manipulation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *