US (MA): Stockbridge students explore the future of farming

In the past two years, the University of Massachusetts Amherst took great strides to invest in sustainability on campus.

Its most recent investment? A student organized hydroponic farm.

Dana Lucas, a senior sustainable food and farming major, and Evan Chakrin, a junior non-traditional horticulture student, both said they came to UMass interested in studying hydroponic production, the practice of growing plants in nutrient rich solutions rather than in soil. However, they were disappointed to find the school did not offer formal hydroponics classes.

They saw a void in UMass’ agricultural program and filled it with water.

“We started campaigning together for a place on campus to study and basically get hands-on experience,” said Chakrin.

In Dec. 2016, the project partners received a $5,000 grant from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture to create the first on-campus hydroponic farm, more commonly known as UMass Hydrofarm.

Located in the Clark Hall Greenhouse across from Franklin Dining Commons, the farm grows produce, like strawberries, leafy greens and tomatoes. These are grown in rafts (floating, hole-punched Styrofoam boards), vertically stacked trays and a Dutch bucket system (a collection of buckets attached by a recirculating water hose that provide nutrients to plant roots).

Read more at Amherst Wire (Maria Manning)

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