Partnership with both regional and international entities continues to keep University at the forefront with innovative opportunities for agriculture and economic development
MURRAY, Ky. —A new agritech initiative led by Murray State University’s Hutson School of Agriculture was celebrated recently, with the potential to grow regional and state economic development while providing important hands-on learning and research for students.
The new solar HVAC system was celebrated on Friday, July 9, 2021, at the University’s West Farm, and included Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear in attendance.
The donated system will provide sustainable energy for the West Farm Shop, a multi-use facility that was previously devoid of any temperature controls, helping students and area farmers alike learn about solar power and agrivoltaics, an agritech method that can increase both food and energy security.
“This agrivoltaics system will offer the students here hands-on training and learning with some of the most advanced technology available,” said Gov. Beshear. “If you are a current or prospective Murray State student, this is your ticket to being part of the emerging industries of the future. This will further our push to make Kentucky the agritech capital of the world and to ensure our people have the well-paying jobs of tomorrow.”
“In building this solar HVAC system on campus, Murray State is providing its students with hands-on experience with solar technology, a sector where substantial job growth is expected,” said Rebecca Goodman, Energy and Environment Cabinet (EEC) Secretary. “Gov. Beshear wants Kentucky to become the international leader in agritech, that is why we see a bright future in agrivoltaics, the use of solar panels on farms to make farms self-sustaining while ensuring food production.”
GREE Electric Appliances, based in Zhuhai, China, supplied a four-ton solar-assist heat pump, and Sunway Energy Solutions, based in Murray, engineered and installed the 12-module solar array that will operate the heat pump. This is the first phase of the project and the University will continue the development of phase two in collaboration with EEC’s Office of Energy Policy.
In addition to agriculture students, the University tentatively hopes to bring in students from the Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering & Technology, and other academic units.
“Murray State University was very pleased to welcome Gov. Beshear, Secretary Goodman, and other guests to campus to talk about the exciting agritech initiatives occurring within our Hutson School of Agriculture,” said Dr. Bob Jackson, President of Murray State University. “Murray State will continue to lead and partner with the commonwealth on new and innovative agricultural opportunities for the economic advancement of our region and state.”
“Murray State Agriculture has been a leader in agritech development with projects such as our Equine Laboratory BioBurner heating project, the establishment of an Unmanned Aerial Systems program, and our pioneering work in agricultural hemp,” said Dr. Tony Brannon, Dean of the Hutson School of Agriculture. “We are extremely grateful to expand our agritech projects with this solar project.”
Brannon expressed great appreciation for the help of Henderson County farmer, Robbie Williams, and Murray State agriculture graduate and Sunway owner, Todd Powell, along with all the sponsoring parties for bringing this donation and installation project to fruition. He also stated that as the Hutson School of Agriculture continues into the rapidly expanding era of renewable energy on the farm, there will be many teachable opportunities through this project. Brannon explained that the project will help provide an education for the University’s students, instead of just a degree. The project is also expected to provide a demonstration site as a pilot resource for area farmers.