RIT is supplying their Brick City Café as well as their catering with greens that are close to home. So close, in fact, that it is right on campus.
David Brault manages a hydroponic vault. An upcycled shipping container has been converted into a climate-controlled growing facility for leafy greens like lettuce and arugula. “We started with like 20 crops and we’re pairing down that list,” said Brault, “Deciding what grows well and what the chefs want to use.”
The 360 square foot farm grows plants in long rectangular columns that house the plants without dirt. Water circulates through the column. The water that does not get used recirculates. “Once they’re the right size, they get moved into these channels.”
The lights are red and blue to maximize growth. Plants do not use other colors of the spectrum for growth, according to Brault.
Denishea Ortiz is a marketing manager at RIT and says students are aware of where their food comes from – and you can’t get more farm to table than this. “This is another avenue and resource for us to be able to control the food that’s coming from where we’re planting it,” said Ortiz.
The leafy greens have already yielded about 40 pounds of food. This is a small fraction of what is consumed on campus, but it is a start with plans to potentially expand. RIT is one of four universities in the nation that has a unit.