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Stony Brook University Helps Prepare Next Generation of Farmers by Introducing a Hydroponic ‘Freight Farm’ On Campus

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Cited as 4th most environmentally responsible university* in 2015, SBU is first higher ed campus to get a Freight Farm

This fall, Stony Brook University is introducing a fresh new technology – a hydroponic Freight Farm – where student farmers can grow crops year-round in an indoor environment. Created in a discarded shipping container converted into a fully operational hydroponic farm known as the Leafy Green Machine, the Freight Farm will be primarily managed by Stony Brook students. Using the latest in farm-management technologies such as cloud-synced growth data, live camera feeds and a smartphone app that monitors and controls light levels inside the container anytime, anywhere, the students will get hands-on experience planting and harvesting lettuce, and Campus Dining will use the fresh produce to feed the student body. Stony Brook University is the first higher education campus to offer students a hydroponic Freight Farm.

“Freight Farms will provide students with the experience of eating the food they grow while enhancing their knowledge of sustainable agriculture,” said James O’Connor, Director of Sustainability and Transportation Operations at Stony Brook. “It will offer experiential learning outside of the classroom and will prepare students for the future. The introduction of the technology will not only help reinforce our ongoing sustainability efforts, but will also encourage and inspire students to be more sustainable. I’m looking forward to the first harvest this fall.”

The first harvest should occur six to eight weeks after the initial planting which occurred earlier this month. Crops are herbicide and pesticide free, and are not harmful to soil structures through the hydroponic closed environment system. The Leafy Green Machine can produce 800-1,200 heads of fresh lettuce in just a week—the equivalent to the yield of one acre. It uses 90 percent less water than outdoor farming and is sustainable year round.

Freight Farms are insulated, and all the systems including pumps, irrigation, and LED growing lights are digitally controlled. Water containing nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and other nutrients are pumped from a 330-gallon reservoir into tubes that distribute the mixture over the roots of the plants in the towers.

To learn more about Stony Brook University’s ongoing sustainability efforts go to stonybrook.edu/sustainability.

Stony Brook University students prepare for a special delivery of the
Stony Brook University students prepare for a special delivery of the “Leafy Green Machine,” the first “Freight Farm” to be placed on a college or university campus. The hydroponic Freight Farm on Stony Brook’s campus will be run by students, for students and its produce will be used in student meals by Stony Brook’s Campus Dining services.

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