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Nalani Morris, Youth Press Team 2023

The 12th Annual NY Sun Works Conference was held at the Javits Center on May 24, 2023. This was the first year it’s been in person since 2019! It was an amazing experience for many, including myself. Being someone who has always loved plants, and has always been aware of what the Earth is going through right now due to climate change, being able to watch a variety of presentations at the conference was such a cool experience. I first got introduced to hydroponics by my elementary school science teacher. There were so many hydroponic systems in her classroom, growing a large variety of plants. I found that amazing. In 7th grade, I joined the hydroponics elective. I learned how to properly take care of systems, and even make my own. I joined the elective again this year and got to do even more than we did last year. Eventually, I got the opportunity to join the youth press team for the 12th NY Sun Works Conference, I was ecstatic. 

The conference took place at the Jacob K. Javits Center, the home of an acre of rooftop farming, which is the 2nd largest green roof in the country. As well as a rooftop orchard and greenhouse. The Javits Center is known for its environmental sustainability, and for hosting events that have to do with helping New York’s economy. All the food that is served at the Javits Center is grown on its rooftop farm and greenhouse. Any of the crops that don’t get consumed are sent to local food pantries to reduce waste, and help with food insecurity in the area. 

Hydroponics is a fairly recent way of growing many different fruits, vegetables, and herbs anywhere in the world without the use of soil, and the ability to control the climate, water levels, and overall how the plant grows based on what it needs. In order for plants to thrive they need nutrients, just like how crops on normal farms use fertilizer. Growing plants hydroponically takes way less space than farming on land, and plants typically grow faster as well. There are many different ways to grow plants using hydroponics. One of the most common ways in New York City classrooms is to use large hydroponic systems, consisting of tower systems, NFT systems, and vine crop systems. At the conference, there were so many different types of presentations, from learning about plants themselves, our environment, and how to get involved in the creation of a greener Earth. 

Many of the presentations at the conference talked about the use of hydroponics in schools, such as a presentation made by students from Brooklyn Technical High School, Victoria Przydanek, and Valentina Wolfe. They created a presentation on the benefits of vermicomposting in hydroponics. The goal of the experiment was to see if vermicomposting was a better way to cut carbon emissions from using store-bought fertilizer and see how it differs from standard hydroponic nutrients. Vermicomposting is when earthworms create fertilizer using organic waste. In the students’ experiment, they made a “compost tea” using fertilizer made from vermicomposting. In my opinion, this presentation was one of the coolest, because it had to do with both hydroponics and finding alternative solutions to make hydroponics even more sustainable for our environment. 

In addition to students presenting at the conference, there were also guest speakers, such as Jerri Taylor, the Director of Diversity in Career Pathways in the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. She had a goal to inspire “the next generation of green leaders” by talking about what she does in her field of work, and how she got to the position she’s currently in today. “There are so many climate solutions that we need, and there’s no diversity in this sector. The people that are mainly impacted are people of color or people who live in poverty.” Because of the areas that some people live in, there aren’t many solutions or alternatives to help slow down climate change. By presenting at the conference, she hopes that younger generations understand her message, and want to make a change in our world. She also stated that working with NY Sun Works was an amazing opportunity, and would love to do it again to hear the opinions of young voices. Make sure to check out the conference on YouTube, and visit the NY Sun Works website to learn more about hydroponic classrooms and the science of sustainability!


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