- Indoor farming company AmplifiedAg Inc. received signoff from South Carolina lawmakers last week to build the first controlled agriculture facility at a prison in the U.S.
- The facility will allow inmates at the Camille Griffin Graham Correctional Institution in Columbia to grow and process their own fresh lettuce, which will be served at the prison's cafeteria, according to a news release. The initiative, which also provides career training, is a partnership with the South Carolina Department of Corrections and Department of Agriculture.
- The $1.2 million facility will consist of eight total farming modules and will be capable of growing 48,000 pounds of lettuce a year. Inmates will receive experience in all aspects of vertical farm production including food processing and packaging.
South Carolina’s corrections and agriculture agencies collaborated with Charleston-based AmplifiedAg on the vertical farming project with the goal of providing fresh produce to the prison and skills development for individuals to secure work after incarceration.
Vocational training has played a significant role in the rehabilitation of inmates, with program participants 33% less likely to recidivate, according to a report from Texas A&M University.
“This is an important and innovative program and has the potential to positively impact the daily lives of incarcerated individuals, reduce recidivism, create new jobs in agriculture, and contribute to the facility’s healthy food security program,” AmplifiedAg Founder and CEO Don Taylor said in a statement.
AmplifiedAg’s modular farms are designed to grow food year-round and can operate regardless of climate, weather or land. A single module can produce 3,400 heads of lettuce every harvest with an average of 16 harvests per year.
Despite recent headwinds in the controlled agriculture sector, lawmakers see indoor farming as a tool to ensure food security and help usher in the next generation of farmers. Congress may consider amendments to innovative programs that support indoor and rooftop agriculture as it debates farm bill reauthorization, according to a Congressional Research Service report.
AmplifiedAg’s vertical farms feature hydroponic growing systems, LED lights and a software platform that monitors and controls environmental factors, such as temperature, humidity, water, and air. The prison facility is slated to have enhanced security for the safety of incarcerated persons and employees.
“Our objective is to prove the program’s success and expand the initiative to other institutions across the state of South Carolina and the nation,” Taylor said in a statement.