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Technology: The Future of Agriculture

CMU/WCCC launch invaluable partnership with Violet Gro

The question around how technology will influence agriculture in the future will soon be explored by students in a 1,500 square foot greenhouse at Western Colorado Community College. Western Colorado is focused on becoming a national leader in unique agricultural practices that will push the industry forward thanks to a promising partnership with Violet Gro, a team of innovative thinkers who are developing technologies that will change the way we think about and grow our food.

“With this invaluable partnership, we will be able to educate students and the community on the various indoor agricultural growing techniques,” said Western Colorado Community College Vice President of Community College Affairs Brigitte Sundermann. “I also want to thank Violet Gro Chief of Staff Ali McKenzie for working so diligently during the pandemic to bring this opportunity to her hometown.  It started with two lights and a table in the back of a classroom and has evolved into a fully dedicated greenhouse research facility.” 

The Grand Valley established itself as an agricultural haven over a century ago, and its rich traditions have proven successful thanks to its adaptability.  As land availability decreases, and land costs as well as demand for food increases, industry experts are being forced to look indoors to discover alternative ways to optimize plant growth or risk global food shortages in the future. Violet Gro, which is part of the Colorado Rural Jump-Start program, has been committed to advancing the science behind its LED grow lights through strategic research partnerships. Now, they’re collaborating with CMU and WCCC to research and explore the impact of lighting on plant yields, color, appearance, nutrition and flavor. 

“This project has the opportunity to truly advance the science of indoor agriculture, which can benefit growers throughout the region and world. That alone is tremendously rewarding, but to get to do it in my hometown, support the local academic and business community, and build on the rich history of Colorado is a real honor,” said Violet Gro Chief of Staff Ali McKenzie. 

Phase one of the partnership consists of building an educational greenhouse that will be led by a full-time program director where agricultural students as well as those in other fields can engage in hands-on research projects.

“This research facility will not only allow us to build on the partnerships that first drew us to set up our headquarters in Grand Junction, but also to establish a world-class academic research facility that will advance our technology and product offerings, and contribute to the broader knowledge base for how to effectively grow plants indoors,” said Terrance Berland, CEO of Violet Gro.

The second phase is making the facility a smart house, which will include alternative energy, sensors, automation, specialty imaging and a master control system which can enhance and compliment tried and true farming techniques, therefore expanding our ability to become sustainable.

“Violet Gro is an excellent example of how the Rural Jump-Start program succeeds in fostering innovation and is helping to diversify the economy here in Mesa County. Violet Gro came here from Florida with a product not found elsewhere in the region and is now expanding, building local partnerships and investing back into the community, which in turn helps to grow our entrepreneurial ecosystem," said Grand Junction Economic Partnership Executive Director Robin Brown.

“WCCC continues to open up alternative pathways for our students. We’re thrilled about this partnership and are excited to see it flourish,” said Mesa County Valley School District 51 College and Career Readiness Director Cheri Taylor.

This partnership between WCCC, Violet Gro and the larger Grand Junction community aspires to further advance the knowledge, techniques and products used by the world’s top indoor growers.


Written by Kelsey Coleman