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The Polk State Clear Springs Advanced Technology Center, located off of State Road 60 in Bartow, will soon see some new innovative farming techniques deployed within the corporate center's property, following action last week by the Bartow City Commission.

A new land-use designation for some of Clear Springs' land, approved by the commission, will allow high-tech farming in repurposed shipping containers, Stantec representative Adam Carnegie told the city governing board. Stantec of Tampa represents the South Carolina company asking for the change.

Carnegie explained that Tiger Corner Farms, a reported leader in container agriculture, wants to install a modular, hydroponic or aeroponic farm system on the PSC/Clear Springs campus, which would be used to further develop and enhance the technologies used in such agricultural pursuits.

He said the facility would consist of numerous repurposed shipping containers would be retrofitted as farm suites with round-the-clock access, environmental controls and sensors. Carnegie added that the Tiger Corner Farms container farms specialized in leafy green vegetable cultivation.

The land Tiger Corner Farms wants to use was not specifically identified at the Jan. 19 session, nor was a dollar figure for the cost of installation. Carnegie did say, however, that the new installation would provide new jobs, but also did not have a specific number for the commission.

The issue wound up on the city's agenda since no such zoning classification or specified use exists on the complex's existing land use plans.

City Planning Director Bob Weigers told the commission the Tiger Farms operation fell within the development's general guidelines if it approved an “advanced technology agriculture” category to add to the regular industrial and commercial designations.

Even without specifics, the proposal drew praise from Bartow Mayor Scott Sjoblom with Commission Steve Githens concurring.

“I'm excited about this,” the mayor said.

“I love bringing any kind of technology into the city,” added Githens.

The Tiger Corner Farms website says it creates automated farm suites with constant access, environmental controls and sensors.

“We pair this with areas for propagation and growing, sanitation and storage for production efficiency,” the website says.

Tiger Farms further says it's proprietary software automates, controls and tracks all aspects of a controlled environment farm from seed to sale, all accessed from the cloud.

Commissioner Leo Longworth, also supportive of the proposal, asked Carnegie when construction would begin. Carnegie said it would be soon, because “they want to move immediately and want to get their facility into production as rapidly as they can.”

Longworth added that any new staff for such an operation “will all need a place to live too.”

In other business last week, the commission unofficially agreed to name the new gymnasium at the Carver Recreation Complex after the late football great Ken Riley. The commission had earlier entertained renaming a city street after the local sports hero, who died last year, but maintained it could be a more complicated issue since it could also involve renaming a local elementary school.

The commission tentatively agreed to rename the gym the Ken Riley Gymnasium at Carver Center, but handed off the specifics to City Manager George Long and Leisure Services Director Catherine Vorassi.

Long and Vorassi are to develop signage in keeping with other existing city facility signage. Longworth was asked to coordinate the naming with Riley's widow and other family members. No time frame was attached to the matter.