'Food as medicine should play a larger role in society's health'

Although Lisette Templin has long understood the benefits of healthy living, she immersed herself into local food production after a family illness highlighted the importance of micronutrients and macronutrients in fresh produce. Lisette, an instructional assistant professor in the Department of Health and Kinesiology at Texas A&M, then began her research into local food production. One thing led to another, and Lisette discovered vertical aeroponic gardening and applied for Aggie Green Fund Grants to bring the concept to Texas A&M. Thus, TAMU Urban Farm United was created.

TAMU Urban Farm United (TUFU) is a small-scale farm project based at Texas A&M University (TAMU) and uses vertical aeroponic techniques to demonstrate the benefits of hyperlocal food production. TUFU is located in a 20 ft by 50 ft greenhouse that was built in the 1980’s. The greenhouse is equipped with a wet wall and shade cloth to moderate temperatures on Texas’ 100°F days, instead of keeping the greenhouse around 90°F. The greenhouse is also equipped with a heating system for cooler days.

With respect to TUFU’s vertical aeroponic system, the farm uses Juice Plus+ Tower Garden systems. According to Lisette, producing through vertical aeroponics reduces space and water requirements by 90% when compared to traditional agriculture, while also reducing labor requirements. Tower Gardens are individual aeroponic towers, which allows Lisette and her students to treat each tower as its own microcosm.


Lisette Templin

“Each tower is in its separate microcosm of growing; if one tower is contaminated with something, we can address the issues within that tower and know with certainty that it will not contaminate other towers,” explains Lisette.

The same is true for both pest and nutrient management, as each tower can be managed separately according to the specific crop. However, Lisette mentioned that the major challenge with TUFU’s current set-up is the distribution of light between the top and bottom of the tower. To address this, TUFU is looking to work with lighting companies to create more uniform light conditions along the tower’s length and provide lighting on cloudy days.

TUFU has many goals, all centered on demonstrating the use of sustainable food production methods to improve personal and community health.

Health impact of local food production
Lisette explains urban farming’s benefits first in respect to physical health, with hydroponic farming allowing growers to deliver highly nutritious, fresh products to the immediate local community. Moreover, Lisette believes that “food as medicine” should play a larger role in the health of children and society as a whole.

“Micronutrient- and macronutrient-dense food grown locally can effortlessly replace food that is highly inflammatory to the human body while providing the phytochemicals necessary to health. This way, indoor hydroponic farms can play a pivotal role in transitioning people off of medication from chronic diseases and in strengthening their immune systems,” says Lisette.

Urban farming can also benefit mental and emotional health, the domain in which Lisette specializes. According to Lisette, the food that we eat significantly affects both our physical and emotional heart, which both seem to people increasingly strained throughout society.

“The burden of sickness in the United States is leading to high suicide rates among adults, young adults and children. I truly believe that bringing the community together to grow food while creating entrepreneurial potential can play a huge role in shifting people’s consciousness towards health and happiness with purpose,” explains Lisette. 

The same is true for both pest and nutrient management, as each tower can be managed separately according to the specific crop. However, Lisette mentioned that the major challenge with TUFU’s current set-up is the distribution of light between the top and bottom of the tower. To address this, TUFU is looking to work with lighting companies to create more uniform light conditions along the tower’s length and provide lighting on cloudy days.

TUFU has many goals, all centered on demonstrating the use of sustainable food production methods to improve personal and community health. 

Further development ahead for TUFU
Moving forward, the vision is to build a new greenhouse that is 100% off-grid and self-sustaining. Once built, the greenhouse would be two-storied with Tower Gardens on the top floor integrated with a meditation space. The first floor would include a seeding area, commercial kitchen, and community classroom. This, according to Lisette, will allow TUFU to have a greater impact both locally and on a larger scale.

Envisioning a sustainable urban farm model
Lisette’s work with TUFU is centered on her personal vision for sustainable living, which she hopes will drive urban farm models. Her vision includes having a livelihood model that she truly feels good about and that is environmentally sound. On the business side, Lisette explains that she envisions a business large enough to support a growing community and build connections within said community by providing training, creating jobs, and fostering personal growth and spiritual transformation.

For more information:
Lisette Templin, assistant professor Health and Kinesiology 
Texas A&M, Texas Urban Farm United 
lisettetemplin@tamu.edu 
www.agrilifetoday.tamu.edu 

 


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