A Lesson For Supermarkets From Universities

Hydroponics is an efficient method because the plants receive nutrients directly from the water. The traditional medium, soil, takes longer to distribute nutrients to the plants.

April 6, 2018

Paula Turkon, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences, oversees seven undergraduate student researchers who maintain the hydroponics and aquaponics systems in the Center for Natural Sciences and the hydroponics system in Terrace Dining Hall, according to the college. 

Some definitions to start: Hydroponics is a method of cultivating plants through the nutritious water beneath them. Aquaponics incorporates fish into the hydroponics system. 

Turkon said hydroponics is an efficient method because the plants receive nutrients directly from the water. The traditional medium, soil, takes longer to distribute nutrients to the plants. 

Turkon also said the team faces challenges with aquaponics because it has to accommodate the fish. Although aquaponics is more natural than hydroponics because the waste the fish produce provides nutrients for the plants, aquaponics is not completely sustainable because the fish in the system are fed fish meal. 

“The overall benefit is to try to provide some local produce,” the professor said. “It can’t get any more local than this.” Herbs grown in Terrace Dining Hall become ingredients for meals in the dining hall and allows chefs to garnish dishes with herbs from the garden, according to Jeff Scott, general manager of dining services on campus. 

Restaurants across the country have been growing herbs and lettuces for decades, Alice Waters started it at Chez Panisse in 1971, almost 50 years later, shouldn’t supermarkets be doing the same thing? In our 2018 Trends Forecast we urged supermarkets here in the US to do exactly that and build working greenhouses in their footprint to allow shoppers to pick their own produce in a sustainable and efficient environment. It’s time.

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