When zoo animals want fresh greens (and bright reds and oranges) to eat, there’s no better solution than growing those vegetables at the zoo. But when you don’t have a lot of space or money (or sometimes sun when you’re living in more rainy climates like the UK), how do you grow enough food? Vertical Farms have become the solution. From The Guardian:
The 100 square metre farm at Paignton Zoo grows leaf vegetables for animal feed. It applies a technique called hydroponics, where plants are grown in nutrient rich solutions instead of soil. Stacked in trays eight layers high, the crops are continually rotated to ensure that all have adequate access to air and sunlight. The system also allows nutrients that have not been directly taken up by the plants to be collected and recirculated, along with the water, reducing usage and minimising waste.
Vertical farming has enormous potential for urban/rooftop farming, as well. It uses less space, less water and less energy, can be solar-powered, and doesn’t need to be transported far to reach the people who are purchasing and eating the produce.
From the archives, more hydroponic farming: Swaziland Teens Win “Science in Action” Award and the NY Sunworks Science Barge.
Powered by wind turbines, solar panels, and a biodiesel generator, the NY Sunworks Science Barge (now in Yonkers, New York) is a model for energy-efficient, sustainable urban farming. Using a hydroponic system that requires no dirt, the floating greenhouse uses less water and space than traditional farming in fields. And their state-of-the-art computer technology creates an optimized environment for nourishing tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, basil, lettuce and more, “with zero net carbon emissions, zero chemical pesticides, and zero runoff.”
It’s not only a great educational field trip for school kids from all over the region, but continues to be an example of how growing local food in cities can be fresh, healthy, and sustainable, all while cutting down on transportation costs and fuel needs. From NYTimes.com:
“It’s a living science lab that on its first level is a demonstration of how we can grow food with fewer resources and that we can produce what we need without damaging the world around us.”
If you want to make your own hydroponic plant-growing experiments, there are kits for kids here and here. Or Instructables has written out steps for making your own hydroponic system using stuff around the house.
If you’re in the New York area, visit the Science Barge!