George Fox engineering department gets grant to help area farmers
A $100,000 federal Renewable Energy Development Assistance grant recently awarded to the engineering department at George Fox University will fund faculty and undergraduate research over a two-year period beginning in the fall. The purpose is to help farmers and vineyard owners with energy audits, energy efficiency and renewable energy options for their facilities.
"George Fox is located right in the heart of a verdant countryside, surrounded by agricultural endeavors of all kinds – berries, grapes, nuts, dairy and hops – which provides us with a significant opportunity to get to know and serve our neighbors, an advantage we have over some of the other engineering programs located in more urban parts of the state," Bob Harder, GFU engineering dean, said. "One big benefit will be the fact our students will become more broadly recognized in the state as a viable contributor to the growing needs we are facing in agriculture."
The idea began two years ago when GFU President Robin Baker presented "A Charter for Change" initiative to address the social, economic and spiritual needs of the region. One of the goals was to develop solutions to real life challenges in the Northwest through cross-disciplinary collaboration between the students, professors and the market.
"In looking at our surroundings, it became obvious that one of our regional stakeholders was the agricultural industry," Harder said. "I shared our interest in becoming more engaged with the local agricultural community and ultimately we applied for this grant through the encouragement of the USDA rural development economic coordinator in our state, Jill Rees. We applied because we saw a clear alignment between the needs of the USDA in this area and our engineering program's strengths."
George Fox is the only institution in Oregon to receive the grant and is a step toward the Newberg school being recognized in the state as an institution that can help address the future needs of the energy, water, food, climate change and future agri-tech revolution.
George Fox is collaborating with Spark Northwest, a Seattle-based renewable energy nonprofit organization, on the effort.