“The healthiest society is one that is connected with its food source.”
Flint as an agricultural hub? It could happen. As the city continues to reinvent itself, anything is possible. As population stabilizes and land opens up, the city and surrounding areas have the unique opportunity to raise crops year-round in the most sustainable and cost-efficient way. And, according to Chad Church, founder of Greener House, the technology is ready and available to seize the opportunity.
“In ten years, we can have hundreds of micro-farms that will localize our production and we don’t have to rely upon fossil fuels to do it,” says Church. “We can build a community through food and create a healthier environment, all in our own backyard.”
After graduating from Michigan State University in 2009 with a degree in electrical engineering, Church began looking for an opportunity to help the community. He thought of the future and what it may bring for himself, his family and his son. He looked to build something sustainable and healthy for the environment while increasing the availability of healthful food. The answer? Greener House.
“I started Greener House for two reasons,” informs Church. “I wanted to develop a 100% sustainable, self-producing greenhouse and rethink how urban areas get their food. Most of the produce available to our communities is shipped here from everywhere else, most from outside of the United States. It’s not the best or most-efficient system for fresh food,” he continues. “Many urban areas are food deserts and need the supply. If you are not eating good food, you’re not leading a healthy life.”
Church designed two unique greenhouses, a wooden model and one built of shipping containers, both utilizing the newest and best solar technology. The goal is to design a 100% self-reliable greenhouse that can produce food year-round. “For the three months my prototype has been in operation, I have paid a total of $3 in energy costs,” Church says. “My design employs a low-tech geothermal HVAC system to help mediate temperature in the greenhouse. Even in winter, when it briefly dropped down into negative wind chills, the temperature in the house never got below 40 degrees.”
Greener House utilizes solar panels that are built to enhance power production and facilitate plant growth. Called LUMO Technology, the panels convert incoming light into red light, a light spectrum that is highly efficient for plant photosynthesis. Plants absorb the red and blue spectrums best and the conversion of light leads to an increased yield, faster maturation time and increased disease resistance. The solar panels are also bifacial, transforming sunlight into electrical energy on both its top and bottom sides. Church’s design can reduce the impact of food shortages while also providing cleaner, greener electrical energy – a solar farm and conventional farm in one.
At the suggestion of Adrian Montague, Executive Director of Flint SOUP, Church applied to present his Greener House concept at Fenton’s ECO CAST competition this past February and was accepted. He then presented his idea to a live audience, hoping to win $1,500 to put toward his idea. “I won the day!” exclaimed Church. “I learned valuable lessons and still talk with all the coaches about Greener House. They have all been so helpful with marketing ideas, website design and more.” The Greener House website is currently being created and will be finished soon.
Meanwhile, the Greener House prototype continues to exceed expectations. “Currently, I have over 100 plants growing and producing including tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, beans, peas, just about every vegetable you can think of – and even flowers.”
Church longs to see a future in Greater Flint that restructures blighted lands into sustainable, energy-proficient urban gardens featuring his design, or even others like it. “We can alleviate food deserts, eat healthier and build a better sense of community,” he says. “The healthiest society is one that is connected with its food source.”
For more information about Greener House, check it out on Facebook.