New York’s Stony Brook University has become the nation’s first college to install a Freight Farm right on campus. The fully-operational hydroponic micro-farm, known as the “Leafy Green Machine”, will be managed by university students who will use a toolbox of technologies such as cloud-synced growth data, live camera feeds and a smartphone app in order to hydroponically grow fresh greens all year-round.
The Leafy Green Machine is a 320-square-foot shipping container unit that has been retro-fitted with a high-density vegetable and herb garden on the interior. The Machine’s year-round harvest production is made possible through the use of high-tech tools such as high-efficiency LED lighting, vertical hydroponic growing towers, and an automated climate-control and irrigation system. The hydroponic urban garden is made even more sustainable by the fact that it can grow thousands of plants year round using 90% less water in a fraction of the space of a conventional greenhouse.
The SB students’ first hydroponic harvest – grown without herbicides or pesticides – is expected about six or eight weeks after the initial planting, which took place in early September. James O’Connor, Director of Sustainability and Transportation Operations at Stony Brook explains that the new program will help students acquire life-long sustainability knowledge. “Freight Farms will provide students with the experience of eating the food they grow while enhancing their knowledge of sustainable agriculture,” O’Connor said. “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.”