By Julia Marsigliano and Wenhao Ma
Stony Brook University became the first campus nationwide to host Freight Farms this past August. This hydroponic indoor farm, aims to provide green food across campus and working opportunities to students.
The farm, located next to Roth Café on Stony Brook University’s campus, is covered in a green and white shipping container, known as the Green Leafy Machine. Using regulated measures, such as air conditioning, LED lighting, varying levels of pH, controlled humidity and carbon dioxide, SBU’s freight farm grows fresh lettuce under the perfect weather conditions all year round.
“Hydroponic farming is a fascinating technology for me,” David Schmitz, the manager of Freight Farms at Stony Brook University said. His experience of running a sustainability program at a university in San Francisco raised his interest in pushing for a “greener” future.
“So as soon as the opportunity arose to have this kind of highly efficient farm on campus, I had to be a part of it,” he said.
A phone app was also designed to let the user moderate the levels of the different nutrients and to turn off the lights without being in the shipping container.
Classified as hydroponic, the farm does not use soil to grow the lettuce and rely solely on minerals and other nutrients, eliminating the use of pesticides in their plants, which ultimately makes their product cleaner than those on the market.
“It’s beautiful,” Campanelli, a sustainability studies major at Stony Brook said as she stared at the lettuce grown under the purple LED lights. Campanelli and Chad Marvin, an environmental humanities major, are both part of the project.
They both work as student farmers for Freight Farms. They help check the seedlings and budding plants, spray water when needed, and change the lighting conditions.
“The farm gives students the opportunity to learn more about hydroponic farming and is a great example of SBU’s ongoing commitment to sustainability,” Schmitz said.
The farm’s first harvest is scheduled to take place in mid October. Its lettuce will be transferred directly to the food court and dining areas across campus, Angela Agnello, Director of Marketing & Communications at Faculty Student Association said. There will be no change of price, she said, between freight farm’s lettuce and naturally grown lettuce.
Agnello also said that serving Stony Brook students is the project’s real goal.
Making profit is not part of their future plans for the farm, Schmitz added. “Serving the students was always one of the main points of this project,” he said.
“We will leave commercial farming to the people that have hundreds or thousands of acres,” he said. “An acre of farmland would not produce a high enough yield to turn much of a profit. This project is for the SBU students and by the SBU students and we hope to help to educate the campus on hydroponic farming,” Schmitz said.
“I would like to have a program where many students have an opportunity to contribute to the farming process so they can learn first-hand how it works.”
Freight Farms was created as a company by Brad McNamara and Jon Friedman in 2010, in order to reduce human stress on nature’s limited resources.
So far, Freight Farms’ clients have included small business such as hotels and universities as well as restaurants, such as Katsiroubas Brothers Fruit and Produce, Local Sprout, and Tasty Burger.