Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Alfred State Green House

In 2007 Alfred State College completed construction of a new building on campus, a mass of steel and glass, this building would be the home to hundreds of plants. The greenhouse operates now as the laboratory for the school's Center for Organic and Sustainable Agriculture (COSA). The building itself offers little in the way of inspired design, instead it is the advanced growing system that is of note. The greenhouse employs a hydroponic system known as “Nutrient Film Technology” in which nutrients are delivered to the plants through tubes facilitating rapid growth. This method of growing can provide harvestable lettuce in as little as a month after planting. In winter there is not sufficient sunlight in Alfred to support this rapid growth so in order to supplement that deficiency the greenhouse has another technological feature, a system of light emitting diodes which are more efficient than other means of greenhouse lighting, as well as less hazardous. The program is in cooperation with on campus dining, and the greenhouse supplies fresh lettuce to the dining hall through out the year. The projected yield for lettuce is 30 heads a day, which is about 20-30 pounds, it is also projected to include tomatoes carrots broccoli and other produce. This arrangement is an attempt to not only provide local vegetation to campus dining services, but also to teach the students in the program the entire process of their work, from seedling to plate, not just the initial steps. The system that is in place is said to be more sustainable than other traditional methods of greenhouse growing in that it requires less space and offers a larger yield. This design is a great example of an innovative way to improve both the learning experience, and the quality as well as environmental impact of the dining services. It is surprisingly uncommon to see two programs working in such close symbiosis, this relationship should stand as a model for other departments to work together in order to improve the school in a larger sense.




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