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For Immediate Release

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Jamie Caswell

202-872-2680 (media hotline)

The University of the District of Columbia and Pepco Launch New Sustainable Farming Technology and Education Initiative for Students, Residents in the Nation’s Capital

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 18, 2021) –The University of the District of Columbia (UDC) and Pepco are pleased to announce the launch of UDC Grown, a new, innovative agricultural pod (Ag Pod) at the Bertie Backus campus in Ward 5. The Ag Pod is a sustainable indoor vertical growing environment for produce that allows communities to grow food year-round. With this initiative, UDC, with sponsorship and support from Pepco, is deploying sustainable farming technology to provide residents with fresh food and teach students more about electricity production, sustainable agriculture and entrepreneurship.

With this project, Pepco hopes to gain a better understanding of the impact indoor food production facilities could have on distribution planning in the near future, and how these structures can support local communities with sustainable options for urban farming and food production. The project represents the company's vision of what the utility of the future may look like and how Pepco can collaborate with community partners to enhance sustainability, resiliency through safe, reliable, affordable, and clean energy. In addition, this Ag Pod will serve as a space where students and local youth will have access to educational opportunities to explore pathways to becoming the next generation of energy leaders, urban farmers, business entrepreneurs, sustainability experts, policymakers and innovators.

"UDC Grown is an exciting new initiative that will cultivate more entrepreneurship in farming, expand access to healthy foods in communities that need them and lay the foundation for urban agriculture moving forward," said Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie. "I commend UDC and Pepco for launching this sustainable farming project that will enable Ward 5 residents to more meaningfully participate in the agriculture space while also being responsible stewards of our environment."

 

"UDC is working effectively with its partners, including Pepco, to help develop and administer an entrepreneurial training model to educate and train interested D.C. residents in Wards 5, 7, and 8 to ensure this project becomes a functional asset for the community," said Dr. Kamran Zendehdel, acting director of the Center for Sustainable Development and Resilience at University of the District of Columbia.

"We are committed to working with our community partners to address climate change, enhanced economic development, and working collaboratively to improve the quality of life in the communities that we are privileged to serve, equitably and inclusively" said Donna Cooper, Pepco region president. "This partnership further demonstrates how we can continue to work side-by-side with our community partners to use new technologies as both a solution to the challenges we confront and as an educational opportunity to help local students and youth become the next generation of energy leaders and innovators."

With the support of the Electric Power Research Institute, the Ag Pod was built within a shipping container to provide a space where communities can grow and harvest local vegetables and maintain sustainable food operations year-round in any climate. The Ag Pod will be managed and operated by the UDC College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences. The Ag Pod is capable of growing produce including arugula, kale, radishes, swiss chard as well as a variety of lettuces and other greens.

This project will help demonstrate how Ag Pods can serve as a much-needed resource in increasing access to fresh food and helping to solve the impact that climate change can have on the sustainable growth of produce. Ag Pods help eliminate food deserts—areas where residents' access to affordable healthy food options (especially fresh fruits and vegetables) is, unfortunately, not always available. Plans for the produce from the Ag Pod include donating fully grown vegetables to local grocers and selling the vegetables at nearby farmers markets.

Pepco is helping fund, energize and operate the Ag Pod as part of its efforts to work with organizations in the District of Columbia and Maryland to demonstrate how new technologies and services can enhance our communities through agricultural sustainability and creating learning and educational opportunities for students and local youth.

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