ACEP Intern Finds New Experiences in Researching Greenhouses

ACEP Intern Finds New Experiences in Researching Greenhouses

Fuel prices and cost of food are on the rise, threatening Alaska communities’ energy and food independence. With a short agricultural growing season, much of Alaska’s food is imported and relies on long supply chains from the Lower 48. By increasing the availability of local foods throughout the year, Alaskans can regain their food autonomy.

Summer ACEP undergraduate summer intern and recent University of Alaska Fairbanks mechanical engineering graduate Mori Hays is looking at ways to do this through strategizing designs of greenhouses that run throughout the year and grow fresh produce for Alaska communities. His project involves researching issues related to integrating renewables into greenhouses and gaining hands-on technical experience with design and construction of research infrastructure.

Hays and his mentor, Daisy Huang, recently traveled to Calypso Farm and Ecology Center, a nonprofit educational farm located on the outskirts of Fairbanks, to learn about how farmers operate greenhouses in Alaska. During their visit, they met with Calypso Farm and Ecology Center co-founder Tom Zimmer.

During a farm tour, Zimmer showed Hays and Huang the extended season greenhouse, which uses a combination of large black containers that act as heat storage, a wood fuel stove and a solar panel to power a system that circulates warm air in cold weather. All of these features contribute to keeping plants alive during the cold spring months. Zimmer described the task of keeping a greenhouse running in the cold as a “challenge.”

Throughout Alaska, dozens of greenhouses run throughout the year and are powered by a variety of sources, including biomass, geothermal, wind and solar. Hays plans to interview operators of these greenhouse operations.  

Is there a community greenhouse in your Alaska community worth investigating? If so, please email Mori Hays at

Mori’s project is funded by the Office of Naval Research. For more information on the internship program, please contact Jeff Fisher at


Tom Zimmer, co-founder of Calypso Farm and Ecology Center, discusses the innovative systems in his greenhouse with ACEP undergraduate intern Mori Hays. Photo by Daisy Huang.