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MSU Partners with Detroit’s RecoveryPark Farms to Grow Opportunity

RecoveryPark Farms is a Detroit agriculture enterprise providing fresh, local specialty produce to quality area restaurants, using novel lighting technology to support sustainable year-round growing.  This lighting technology is the product of an ongoing partnership with RecoveryPark Farms, Michigan State University and the Michigan Corporate Relations Network (MCRN), combining expertise  from Lansing, Grand Rapids and Detroit.

The first statewide network in the country to provide a critical and unique tool for business growth and attraction, MCRN began in 2011 as collaboration between six of Michigan’s leading research universities. MCRN is supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and the Michigan Strategic Fund Board (MSF).

RecoveryPark Farms utilized MCRN’s Small Company Innovation Program (SCIP), to provide $40K in matching funds to help cover the cost of conducting their lighting research project with LED specialists at MSU.  The SCIP program helps companies overcome a common challenge faced by small companies and entrepreneurs--getting research and development needs met, so they can get to commercialization faster.

“Providing innovative small companies access to university research partnerships increases statewide collaboration,” said Charles Hasemann, Assistant Vice President for Innovation and Economic Development at the MSU Innovation Center. “Our partnership with RecoveryPark Farms is a great example of applying problem-solving resources to accelerate a company’s positive economic impact.”

At MSU, RecoveryPark Farms researched more efficient greenhouse lighting systems with Erik Runkle, Ph.D., from the Department of Horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Runkle specializes in lighting applications for greenhouses and controlled environments, light-emitting diodes and greenhouse energy conservation, all of which were part of this research partnership.

Lighting for the 20-acre project was provided by Light-Speed USA, a photonic light modeling group based in Grand Rapids. Lighting is custom-designed per plant species to best optimize size, yield, color and flavor.

Incorporated in 2012, RecoveryPark Farms has run several successful pilot farms, selling fresh produce to many of Detroit's finest restaurants. Starting with high tunnels and progressing to hydroponic greenhouses using natural standards, RecoveryPark Farms grows chef-requested specialty produce, which is then delivered to restaurants within a 300-mile radius within 24-48 hours. 

“Restaurant demand for grown-to-order local produce is huge,” said Gary Wozniak, President and CEO of RecoveryPark. “This project allows us to find an affordable way to replicate natural sunlight all year long, and provide a steady supply of  the best produce around.”   

A part of nonprofit RecoveryPark, RecoveryPark Farms is their first food business. RecoveryPark works to create job opportunities for Detroit’s residents and help returning citizens and challenged workers return to the work force by leveraging a number of Detroit’s underutilized assets, including a large available workforce, abundant open space, access to fresh water, extensive infrastructure and a wide array of manufacturing and technology companies.

Learn more about MCRN’s SCIP/TCA program: http://www.michigancrn.org/small-company-innovation-and-commercialization-assistance/

Read more about RecoveryPark Farms: https://www.recoverypark.org/recoverypark-farms

Connect with MSU’s Business-CONNECT to learn more about university research partnerships for companies big and small: https://businessconnect.msu.edu/