Friday, September 16, 2011

Hydroponic Farm Intern

Back in July, I went to this lecture about "Urban Farming" in Soho.  I went to the lecture because I was really interested in learning about best practices of urban gardening from urban farmers.  I have a bit of an obsession when it comes to learning about urban gardening, how I can be better at it, especially figuring out ways that I can grow more efficiently, but the talk was more general than I thought it would be, and I didn't get much information from the lecture itself.  After the lecture, I did however meet a very interesting person in the audience.  I met Lee Mandell, the founder of Boswyck Farms, a hydroponic farm in Bushwick Brooklyn. What is so unique about Boswyck Farms is that it has a large focus on educational programs.  From their website, "We also like to teach about hydroponics and growing food; and we like to run community workshops about urban farming and sustainability. In the summer of 2009 we decided to bring our program into schools by designing a science curriculum with the goal of creating an innovative approach to the study of botany. With a focus on inquiry and the scientific method we hope to help our students understand not only the biology of plants but new ways to experience science in the classroom."  In addition to their educational programs, they also are involved in the local community, by not only providing hydroponically grown food to food pantries, they also set up systems in the food pantries themselves.  I've been really interested in learning about Hydroponic gardening and I love their mission, so I immediately asked him if he took on interns.  He said he did and for the last 2 weeks, I've been interning there once a week.  This week, Lee took me to the Child Development Support Corporation (CDSC), where they have a weekly food pantry and a very substantial hydroponic system in place built by the team at Boswyck Farms.  They built a two-tier system which maximizes the vertical space.  Isn't this just the coolest thing ever??  On this day, I helped Lee setup some additional grow lights for some new beds.
Here are some other views of the tiered system.  For urban environments, where space is at a premium,  hydroponics is a great way to grow fresh vegetables indoors.  I asked Lee how much it cost to run the grow lights, the water pumps and any other equipment needed to run the hydroponic system, and he said the energy it takes to grow a head a lettuce translates to about 50 cents per head.  That didn't seem bad to me at all!  In fact, that seems very reasonable.
Here is how the plants get started.  They sow the seeds directly into blocks of oasis, this is super cool.
The lettuce seedlings are really taking off.
Heads of green leaf lettuce.  The fresh heads of lettuce are harvested and are available during the food pantry days for families and individuals in need to take home. 
And a closeup of one of the Romaine beds. 
These heads of Romaine lettuce are almost ready to be harvested.  The families and individuals who come to the food pantry get access to this super fresh produce. This hydroponic farm setup is such a great sustainable model to have at a food pantry since they are constantly resupplying their own organic resources. Educational, practical, and sustainable = totally awesome!  


  1. How cool! A great opportunity and glad you got in there!

  2. That's a great set up! It would be even cheaper grown under those same lights in dirt. Good potting soil will grow healthy veggies too, without the pumps and hydroponic set up. Hydroponics is cleaner, howevergh, and easier to manage in some ways.

    I like your blog!

  3. That is so cool Mimi! I can't wait to hear what else you learn!

  4. Interesting that he failed to mention the cost of the physical structures, or the cost of human labor.

  5. Very good job buddy its really fantastic I am using these Farm Equipment since 2-3 years and I am getting satisfactory results and my farm is also looking like green garden.....Thank you

  6. Thanks for the post mate you have written it very well.

  7. Urban Farming seems like a really interesting gardening procedure. It is cool that you are able to extend some help in improving this wonderful hydroponics system.

    1. First of all I would like to tell that the collection of Hydroponic Farm Intern's pictures is looking awesome. The tiered system you have been show in first pictures is very new for me, because I never seen this kind of system before.
      grow box

  8. I love indoor farming like you presented in this blog. Truly, this will help eradicate the scarcity of food and make farming easy and efficient.

  9. I love doing Rhode Island hydroponics. Watching the plants grow makes me so happy inside. Talk about brightening your day!

  10. Don't forget the fertilizers needed to ensure good tasting and yielding produce.


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