Good Food Project Goes Extremely Local with Hydroponic Window Farm

William J. Hopkins '11

Good Food Project Goes Extremely
Local with Hydroponic Window Farm

by William Hopkins '11
6/25/10

hydroponic window farm
One of the lettuce plants in the Good Food Project's hydroponic window farm.

The Good Food Project wants to show the community a better way to live through sustainable food practices. They tend a campus garden; advocate for local food, which is now regularly served in the College's dining hall; and manage the campus composting effort that has collection bins in Sharples Dining Hall, the snack bar, coffee bars, and most residence halls. Not content with their successes so far, the Good Food Project also built a window farm in late April that now hangs in the Science Center Eldridge Commons.

The window farm is made from stacks of plastic bottles, each of which contains a dirt filter and a small plant. Water trickles down the stack until it reaches the bottom, where a hydroponic pump recycles it to the top of the stack. The system makes efficient use of water and materials, and can be placed in existing infrastructure with minimal disruption. The window farms thus have low ecological impact while supporting edible produce. The farms currently house small lettuce plants, though the organizers hope to grow small tomatoes and peas later in the summer. Because of the greenhouse-like effect of the plastic bottles, the window farms can operate year-round indoors as long as there is enough sunlight.

"Through this project we hope to demonstrate to all those who pass through Science Center that urban agriculture can be a part of meeting our daily food needs," says Sarah Scheub '12, who planned and proposed the window farms with Jesse Marshall '11. Nick Vogt '12 is on campus for the summer caring for the window farms. "We really didn't know what to expect," he says, "considering this was our first time doing anything with hydroponics. The lettuce that we have planted now is almost more than we can harvest and eat." The Good Food Project has deemed the farms a success, and plans to improve on the original design. "We really hope that in the future smaller systems will be seen in the windows of dorm rooms across campus," Scheub adds. "This type of technology has many real world applications."