The Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society (MESAS) recently finalized a report on a selection of infrastructure options for year round covered agriculture in Maine. The report is the culmination of a research, design and demonstration initiative on small farms who operate an extended or year round production system. The Sustainable Year Round Agriculture program (SYRA) ran from 2015-2019 and demonstrated high tech greenhouse systems that show initial promise for adoption on commercial farms across the region. The report presents findings and recommendations for follow on agriculture infrastructure research for in climates defined by a short growing season, a long winter with snowfall and an often unpredictable “shoulder season” weather in spring and fall.
The report suggests that a commitment to priorities for low tech, renewable energy and heating systems that balance financial viability with environmental and social accountability may be the best approach for increasing the impact and full life cycle of extended season covered agriculture infrastructure, especially for Maine’s abundance of soil-based small and mid-sized family farms. Embedded in the report is a prototype Excel-based farm infrastructure project planning and budgeting tool that includes carbon fuel and energy accounting, alongside crop planning and traditional financial accounting. Other sections include discussions on mobile app and sensor networks for small farmers, a review of Maine’s aquaponic research stations, “radiant root zone” greenhouse heating, and the use of “phase change material” for extra heat capture and slow release.