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The Resiliency Tunnel and the future of the UW farm

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UW Farm

The Resiliency Tunnel is a project intended to highlight the future of sustainable farming near campus. In partnership with the UW farm, the tunnel’s innovative approach to growth will adapt to a variety of ecological conditions, while producing a higher yield of crops that will go to the UW Food Pantry.

One of the main challenges the Resiliency Tunnel intends to address is bad weather conditions in winter. During this period, growing conditions become more hostile to fresh produce, resulting in decreased supply and possible shortages. 

The Resiliency Tunnel will sit at the front corner of the UW farm near Mary Gates Memorial Drive and will measure 70 by 30 feet, with 50 by 30 feet housing the plants and a 20 by 30 foot section serving as an educational space. It will be a high tunnel, which is similar to a greenhouse in that it protects the crops, however the plants are planted directly into the ground.

According to Emma Maggioncalda, project manager and a fourth-year student in environmental science resource management, the project will provide enough growing space to produce an additional 4,000 pounds of produce per year for the farm. 

“What it does is it protects those crops and it stabilizes the conditions so that you can grow in the winter and in the extreme heat in the summer,” Maggioncalda said. “And so it really increases yield and it has much more reliable yields and is actually more nutritious.” 

The structure will also have a rain cistern that will provide water for nearby orchards, as well as solar panels added to the educational space. The solar panel array will provide electricity for the tunnel for lighting and ventilation purposes, and will also be connected to the Seattle City Light grid.

“We’d be connected with the Seattle City Light grid, and we’d be able to contribute any excess power — particularly in the summer — back to the grid,” Maggioncalda said. “So providing renewable energy to the grid … that helps actually pay for our electricity bill in return. So it would be very low operational costs in that sense for the farm.”

The Resiliency Tunnel will be the largest indoor space on the farm and could potentially house labs, research projects, and other innovative forms of gardening, such as vertical or hydroponic gardens. 

The tunnel will also house QR codes to access the learning library, a virtual resource that the team is compiling. According to Maggioncalda and Riya Venkatesh, the outreach lead and a third-year student in environmental science and community environment and planning, the learning library will house resources where people can read about the tunnel as well as climate change, Indigenous practices, and Indigenous food systems.

The expected completion of the Resiliency Tunnel is scheduled for spring or summer of 2023. The project is currently ongoing, and there are more opportunities for students to get involved and have an impact on the project. Interested students can either fill out this form or email resiliencytunnel@gmail.com

“There’s very little limitation on the ways we can expand the project, so you can come with any experience — any expertise — it’s really exciting,” Maggioncalda said.

Reach writer Taylor Bruce at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @Tay1or_marie9

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