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.
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.
Two teenagers from the southern African country of Swaziland have won Scientific American’s inaugural Science in Action award, part of the Google Science Fair. The prize is awarded to a project that addresses a social, environmental or health issue to make a practical difference in the lives of a group or community.
This year’s winners are Sakhiwe Shongwe of Siteki and Bonkhe Mahlalela of Simunye, both 14. Their project explores an affordable way to provide hydroponics to poor subsistence farmers, enabling them to grow their crops and vegetables in very large quantities and within limited space without using soil.
In addition to a $50,000 prize, Shongwe and Mahlalela will have access to a year’s mentorship and will travel to Google’s California headquarters in July to compete in the 13-to-14-year-old age category in the overall Google Science Fair.