Research Projects

Sustainable Living Indoor Gardens Utilizing Energy-efficient and Renewable Energy Technology

How do we feed the world’s population of 7.8 billion? Afagh Mohagheghi and research team aim to utilize renewable energy and energy savings strategies to develop sustainable indoor gardens at SFU’s Surrey campus.

Project summary:

  • This project aims at utilizing renewable energy and energy savings strategies to develop sustainable indoor gardens to be established in the SFU Surrey campus and possibly deployed to other campuses. In collaboration with Embark Sustainability, the project team will build these technology-enhanced gardens for promoting nutritious and sustainable food production and accessibility.
  • In the area of renewable energy, the following technologies will be implemented and tested: (i) transparent photovoltaics, and (ii) LED supplemental lighting with intelligent daylight harvesting. The control algorithms will be adjusted and tuned based on feedback from students and garden operators to achieve optimal performance.
  • SFU Surrey Operations is aware of the project and Living Lab will make additional effort to enhance the project’s connection to the Surrey Campus as a whole.
Research Team
  • Afagh Mohagheghi, PhD student, School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering
  • Mehrdad Moallem, Professor, School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering
  • Pablo Vimos, Gardens Coordinator, EMBARK Sustainability and SFU Surrey Operations
Afagh Mohagheghi

Project Update

June 2021 

In collaboration with Embark Sustainability and SFU Motion and Power Electronics and Control (MPEC) Lab team, four garden set-ups were developed to combine gardening expertise and scientific knowledge creating a data rich environment for Sustainable Indoor Garden research.

The first growth cycle (from the reproductive stage to harvest) was tested in Smart Garden 1 during the months of January through April. The crops included tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers. This cycle was focused on collecting and analyzing general indoor plant growth data.

As a second step, Planters 1 and 2 were equipped with self-watering systems to reduce human intervention. A growth cycle was carried out in April-May 2021 with plants such as lettuce, basil, and onions to test the irrigation system and study lighting conditions.

After that, the second growth cycle (from vegetative stage to harvest) was started in Smart Garden 1 mid-May 2021. The crops include tomatoes, cucumbers and basil. This cycle is focused on collecting image data for plant health and morphological analysis.

The next steps include adding the broad-spectrum LEDs to the Planters 1 and 2 to enhance flavor, deploying the calibrated sensors with a Neural Network algorithm to a growth cycle to quantify supplemental lighting effects on plants and energy savings, and integrating more environmental parameters sensors with the system.

Figure 1. From the left, SFU MPEC Lab Team (Joe Zhang, Afagh Mohagheghi, Dr. Mehrdad Moallem) and Embark Sustainability Gardens Coordinator (Pablo Vimos).
Figure 2. Active learning gardens, from the left, Planter 2, Planter 1, Smart Garden 1, and Smart Garden 2.