There are just over 2 million farms across the United States. These farms have been growing and delivering quality produce both domestically and across the globe. There isn’t a grocery store, restaurant, or university in America that doesn’t rely on some type of agricultural food production.
Thanks to a new way to garden, however, there could soon be some major changes across both the agriculture industry and the U.S. education sector. The new way to garden: hydroponic farming. Some crops can actually grow twice as fast in hydroponic garden setups because of their ability to receive the correct amount of nutrients, water, and oxygen.
According to New River Valley, Virginia Tech will now feature a new hydroponic food court inside their dining hall, bringing a new meaning to fresh foods.
Hydroponic gardening works so well because the person handling the crops can directly control the entire system and deliver the exact amounts of nutrients, oxygen, light, and anything else the plan needs. It’s been proven that this method of gardening can be used anywhere, even on college campuses.
VT students who visit Owens Dining Hall will now have the ability to enjoy produce that’s both local and grown directly inside the dining hall’s food court. All vegetables and herbs will be cultivated inside the innovative hydroponic system, which will hang on both sides of the Farms and Fields restaurant in the dining area.
“As much and as often as we can harvest the produce,” said Lauren Snelson, assistant director at Owens Dining Center. “We put it into the entrees and salads that come out of the shop and on the panini and things like that.”
WVNSTV adds that since Virginia Tech’s food court now utilizes hydroponics, year-round produce is now a feasible option for the university.
“At present we are growing two types of basil — a green and a purple — as well as Swiss chard and parsley,” added Gwyneth Manser, sustainability manager for VT’s Dining Services and Housing and Residence Life. “These crops may eventually change, as the vertical hydroponics systems are conducive to a wide range of herbs and leafy greens.”
Virginia Tech isn’t going to stop there, either. There are already plans to expand the hydroponic food court, including the installation of 10 other systems. Currently, each of the two systems is about four feet tall and two feet wide. They operate by slowly dripping water into the root systems of the plant, without the need for traditional soil.
It seems as though hydroponic gardening will continue to increase in popularity in the near future, especially as more colleges follow suit.
“I have been so amazed at how well they’ve taken off,” added Snelson. “They wouldn’t grow this quickly in soil. We were able to harvest our basil for the first time during the fall semester, and we included it on a panini served at Farms and Fields.”