Western Dakota Tech new geothermal greenhouse brings new opportunities for students and agriculture producers

Published: Apr. 25, 2023 at 7:44 AM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Agriculture is the number one industry in South Dakota and is entirely dependent on the weather. A new addition to Western Dakota Technical College is teaching students how to change that.

Greenhouses provide an opportunity for producers to grow year-round, as the enclosed space protects crops from harsh conditions.

Western Dakota Tech’s new geothermal greenhouse allows students in the controlled environment agriculture program to overcome difficult elements of the environment.

The goal of the program is to not only advance students’ learning but to showcase a way for agriculture to take a step forward in South Dakota.

”This allows for traditional agriculture producers to consider that this might be something they can incorporate into their portfolio and be able to extend their production times. And maybe look into specialty crops for when they’re not doing their major AG with the grains that we produce,” said Bryan Mitchell, co-director for the controlled environment agriculture program.

The greenhouse has no heating, cooling, or water systems. In order for the plants to thrive, students are responsible for providing everything the plants need.

All programs at the school were involved in creating the greenhouse from the construction technical program building the enclosure, to the HVAC program installing vents to help with airflow.

”It essentially can diversify a producer’s ability to continue to earn revenue in the off-season when we don’t have the great weather that we do in the summer,” added Mitchell. So, there is a lot of great opportunities inside a space like this.”

Additionally, the greenhouse will feature an aquaponics area to help grow plants.