Students on campus last year may have noticed a structure eerily similar to an otherworldly, sci-fi contraption that one sees in movies tucked into a corner of the Hamilton “Ham” Center. While the tower was not in use last academic year, thesis student and project captain Isaiah Johnson is spearheading the resurgence of hydroponics on campus.
According to Johnson, various types of lettuce, spinach, dinosaur kale, Greek oregano, tomatoes and herbs such as basil and mint will be grown throughout the year in the small pockets one can see lining the center cylinder of the tower.
Hydroponic farming, as a practice, takes traditional farming practices and instead utilizes LED lights and highly nutrient-dense soils to produce food at a faster, more sustainable rate.
“Utilizing mineral-rich concentrates and nitrates in a hydroponic environment can enhance the nutrient profile of plants more effectively than those grown in soil,” Johnson detailed via email. “This is due to the higher concentration of nutrients in the water solvent, which allows for increased uptake and absorption by the plant. Furthermore, the absence of soil reduces the prevalence of weeds and pests that can hinder plant growth.”
Johnson also aims to use this endeavor to study “different light wavelengths and nutrient values to examine the plants’ anthocyanin levels (pigmentation) in relation to the stress factors of plant biology.”
“I am striving to offer guidance and resources to facilitate the growth of the hydroponic tower and enable the community to reap the benefits of this innovative, sustainable farming method,” Johnson continued. “Ham will be harvesting [the plants] when I have completed the project and so the community will be able to consume the produce.”