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Bringing Agriculture into the 21st Century

In modern agriculture, it is important to know your options when it comes to how to run your business smoothly and efficiently. Brook Sheffield, owner and operator of Lotus Farm and Garden, an agricultural supply store in Asheville, NC, started his business in hopes of supplying the community with cheaper equipment and knowledge. Sheffield also wanted to be an example to other agricultural businesses and area greenhouse operators as to how new techniques in organic agriculture can be very beneficial to their operations. However, the original gas heating system in Lotus’s demo greenhouse was becoming very expensive. Sheffield then began looking for better alternatives that would not only be a great example of energy efficiency, but also save his businesses money.

Through a TVA Energy for Farms Grant provided by Southwestern NC RC&D Council, Sheffield was able to install a complete passive solar hot water system. The way passive solar hot water works is by collecting solar energy in the form of heat through a panel outside the greenhouse. This heat is then transported through pipes that are connected to black barrels full of water. From the barrels, the water is used in many ways in the greenhouse. Lotus also has tables that are heated by the hot water to keep the plants happy and healthy. “This hot water system has already shown a huge difference in Lotus’s energy costs,” said Sheffield. “We not only use the hot water to heat our tables, but we also use it in fish tanks that we use for aquaponics. We use it to scald chickens and hogs for meat production in the summer as well.”

“The reason we created this demo greenhouse is to show the next generation of farmers and horticulturalists the future of agriculture,” said Sheffield. “That’s why we are so excited and grateful for this grant to install the solar hot water system; technology and agriculture truly go hand in hand!” Lotus is constantly trying to engage seasoned farmers as well as young people interested in agriculture by hosting workshops and tours of the demo greenhouse. To learn more about Lotus Farm and Garden or more about upcoming workshops, visit their website at www.lotusfarmandgarden.com.