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Chicago Tribune: Illinois Tech grows smart farm that will grab solar power, water itself

Posted Jul 21, 2016

A garden at Illinois Tech is sprouting with broccoli, kale and an assortment of flowers — but its real job is to allow students to build out clean energy sources and test smart farming technologies.

UFarmIIT, a 5,000-square-foot garden on campus, started out six years ago as a collaborative project with professors and students from different disciplines. Now, UFarmIIT is developing into a smart farm the university hopes can prove concepts that will one day ease the pains of farming in cities.

The challenge is doing all of that without creating waste, said Hamid Arastoopour, engineering professor and director of the Wanger Institute for Sustainability and Energy Research, which helps fund and run the farm.

“It has social impact, it has economic impact and it has safety impact, but we have to do it right,” he said. “We cannot use electricity because it is already at a shortage … We have to be very careful that everything comes from renewables.”

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