Techno-economic evaluation of novel facility for Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) - ON-689

Project type: Innovation
Desired discipline(s): Engineering - civil, Engineering, Engineering - mechanical, Environmental sciences, Natural Sciences
Company: Can Grow Here
Project Length: Longer than 1 year
Preferred start date: As soon as possible.
Language requirement: English
Location(s): Toronto, ON, Canada; GTA, ON, Canada; Windsor, ON, Canada; Ottawa, ON, Canada; Canada; Canada
No. of positions: 2
Desired education level: Undergraduate/BachelorMaster's
Open to applicants registered at an institution outside of Canada: No

About the company: 

Can Grow Here is an early-stage startup being incubated in the Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University) Clean Energy Zone. Its focus is on providing the Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) industry with radically energy-efficient smart building infrastructure.

Describe the project.: 

The company’s mission is to deploy a series of highly energy-efficient smart CEA facilities across Canada. In our vision, consumers across the country would have year-round access to a wider range of affordable, high-quality fresh produce, grown in large part near where they live, and increasingly by young entrepreneurs.

Current high-tech growing infrastructure delivers high crop yield and sustainability in terms of water, pesticide, and fertilizer use, but with a large carbon footprint and high energy and capital cost. This weakens the business case of high-tech CEA and limits the industry’s ability to bring a range of locally-grown food to the mass market.

We believe that multi-disciplinary solution innovation – in building envelopes, HVAC, lighting, building energy management, and on-site green energy generation – can transform both the economics and the environmental impact of this industry. Although several technologies and approaches have been proven beneficial, the benefits and costs of these (individually or in viable combinations) have not been quantified nor normalized in a way that can easily inform the design of new facilities.

Identifying the right combinations is non-trivial, and requires systematic validation of a design pattern. Developing this would not only give our company a commercial lead in a new market but can eventually fuel a more secure, resilient, and sustainable food supply chain.

Our 2-year-long R&D program is focused on defining and documenting a repeatable best-practices CEA facility design pattern. The approach is rooted in Design Thinking; it includes a review of the literature and past experimental results, and a modeling & simulation phase. It also involves a Proof of Concept exercise in which a small-scale prototype building will be constructed to act as the subject of experimental reconfigurations.

Candidates would contribute to the literature review, design and construction planning for the prototype, planning, and execution of the PoC, and documentation of the results.

Required expertise/skills: 

  • Mechanical, construction or electrical engineering
  • High-performance building envelopes, thermal energy storage
  • Building management systems
  • Industrial microgrids
  • Fusion 360, Rhino, Agi32, EnergyPlus
  • Optional: energy use and lighting simulation tools