October 21, 2022
A Bountiful Harvest: Year-Round, Every Year
We’re loud and proud about the benefits of hydroponic farming, and are excited to continue introducing hydroponics to the world of environmental education. From land conservation to resource management, hydroponics offers a variety of environmentally friendly ways to produce food while avoiding many of the hurdles faced by traditional outdoor agriculture. We were honored to share the benefits of hydroponics at this year’s North American Association for Environmental Education Conference held in Tucson, Arizona, and learn more about other initiatives bringing sustainability into the classroom. But what do the benefits of hydroponic farming look like exactly, and how do they play into our vision for a sustainable future?
Our ability to install fully functional hydroponic farms inside the diverse range of NYC classrooms speaks to their space-conscious design. With limited room for vast expanses of greenery, urban environments desperately need a way to produce healthy foods without the abundance of agricultural land available to rural farmers. Hydroponics opens a world of delicious leafy greens and fresh produce to city dwellers and presents the rural farming community with new methods of decreasing their dependence on agricultural land. By capitalizing on the verticality of hydroponic systems, we can benefit environmental restoration efforts such as reforestation and rewilding projects by proxy, and continue to minimize human impact on the natural environment without jeopardizing our food system.
Hydroponics also provides a sustainable alternative to outdoor agriculture, as farmers can control significantly more of the specifics involved in growing produce. Because hydroponic systems can be used indoors, their yield is year-round rather than seasonal, and not subject to weather conditions or dependent on soil quality. Temperature, light, humidity, and nutrient levels are all carefully controlled, making nutrient-dense food more accessible. Not only does this contribute to the overall stability of our food system, but it also can be used to help address food insecurity by introducing long-term food solutions to historically underserved areas. Similarly, it broadens the range of food options for cities like Tucson because their extreme climates and high elevations prevent much of their natural environment from being used for agricultural purposes.
Soil-less farming methods are also typically more resource efficient than their soil-based counterparts, which is a key consideration for desert cities where water is in short supply. Hydroponic systems don’t rely on saturation or soil absorption to help plants grow, and frequently utilize what are referred to as “closed-loop systems.” This means that hydroponics conserve and maintain the water supplies they use, which in our greenhouse classrooms, is actually purified rainwater! In these instances, a fully functioning greenhouse including 3 or more hydroponic systems can be operated year-round with limited or no reliance on external water sources. Similarly, hydroponic systems can grow plants more densely than traditional farming, meaning that smaller amounts of water can be used to produce a higher overall yield. For urban populations with limited natural resources, incorporating water-conscious agricultural methods like hydroponics into their food system could prove to be a considerable boon.
While there’s no perfect answer to any environmental issue, we can make small but meaningful strides toward a sustainable future by implementing solutions like hydroponics on a larger scale. Traditional farming methods employed by local agriculture have long supported us with the nutrient-dense foods we need to thrive, but we hope to continue to innovate alongside rural and urban farmers alike. With over 230 farm classrooms across the NY metro area, NY Sun Works hopes to set the bar for science educators and inspire a future generation of farmer scientists to build on the foundations we share.