One of our newest projects is the construction of the hydroponics lab. Imagine fresh salad greens all winter long…a real treat!
Hydroponics means working water–“hydro” means water, and “ponos” means labor. Steadily growing in popularity throughout the world, hydro- and aeroponics are eco-friendly methods of cultivation. (The picture on the left, above, shows an aeroponics tower.) The quantity of nutrient-enriched water used is far less than the amount of water used in traditional cultivation.
With support from the Board of Freeholders and Camden County’s Office of Sustainability, Rutgers Master Gardeners have been diligently working on our first hydroponics system to provide nutritious, delicious produce to local partners.
Hydroponics is a soil-less approach to gardening that has been utilized for thousands of years. Hydroponic gardening tends to produce larger plants and higher yields by delivering a nutrient-rich solution directly to the plant root system. This makes for easier access to nutrients, compared to traditional soil gardening in which the plants need to search for nutrients. Also, the reuse of the nutrient solution utilizes less water than conventional gardening.
Ultimately, the project’s mission is to create a place to produce fruits and vegetables in a system where food safety, nutrition, and water conservation are the key principles. Combating food deserts in low-income urban areas is a key goal. Sustainable Camden County and Rutgers Master Gardeners collaborate to improve our community’s well-being.
Since its first season in the winter of 2017, the team has installed various types of hydroponics systems, including NFT (nutrient film technique), Dutch bucket, and floating systems, and soon an aeroponics system will be added into the mix.
Current production consists of lettuces, microgreens, herbs, tomatoes, and cucumbers. On a biweekly basis about 25 pounds of leafy greens are donated to Cathedral Kitchen in Camden. In 2017, 347 pounds of produce were donated and in 2018 the total has increased to over 450 pounds. We even have a new partnership with the Philadelphia Zoo to provide healthy, freshly picked produce for its wildlife!