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A farm that integrates solar panels in the crop field.

Pairing Regenerative Farming and Solar Energy Production to Improve Urban Resilience



  • Urban Food Systems

Inland Southern California is known for having “cheap dirt,” or poor soil quality that is unfit for agricultural use. The region’s poor soil hinders the potential for a local agriculture economy, which strains the economy and creates an unstable local food system. Without consistent access to local produce, urban resilience, defined as the community’s ability to overcome shocks to the system, suffers. To improve regional food systems in Inland Southern California, the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) is awarding Pitzer College a $1,798,114 total investment to understand the benefits of agrivoltaics—regenerative farming soil practices paired with solar energy production—on a local food system.

Agrivoltaics, or dual-use farming, involves installing solar panels above agricultural fields, to harness the dual benefits of crop production and renewable energy generation. By integrating regenerative farming soil practices with solar energy infrastructure, the study aims to improve soil health, enhance food resilience and revitalize urban food systems in Inland Southern California.

Integrating agrivoltaics in agriculturally underutilized areas could provide new economic models that benefit farmers and the environmen. This farming model maximizes land efficiency, allowing for increased food production while simultaneously generating sustainable energy. John Reich, Ph.D.
Scientific Program Director Urban Food Systems

Phillips and her team are studying the implementation of agrivoltaics at three small-scale farms in Inland Sothern California. The research team is assessing the impacts of agrivoltaics on crop production and soil health, as well as benefits to the local economy. This research aims to improve regional food systems and establish a framework and metrics that could inform land-use planning in similar climate regions.

“This technology has potential to offer a valuable land-use strategy for our region that sees farming as a way of the past,” said Arthur Levine, co-principal investigator at Pitzer College. “This type of growing could help generate local agriculture, bringing local food into the region. We can produce energy and food, on multiple scales, all while using less resources and supporting cropland conservation, farmer incomes and health.”

Matching funds are provided by American Farmland Trust CA, City of Riverside, Climate Resolve, GRID Alternatives, Huerta del Valle, Inland Empire Resource Conservation District (IERCD), The Nature Conservancy, Pacific Biochar Benefit Corporation, Pitzer College, and Pomona College.

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Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.

Connect:
@FoundationFAR