Campus Dining's Urban Cultivator

Posted on May 17, 2016

by Rozalie Czesana '18

In order to support the dialogue on sustainable food systems and creative innovation, Campus Dining is investigating hydroponic produce. As part of this effort, an Urban Cultivator was installed in Café Vivian this spring. The Cultivator will be used as a teaching tool in exploring the potential of hydroponics, and is supported with funding from the High Meadows Foundation Sustainability Fund.  

seeds April 15 – Day 0: seeds planted in coco fiber soil

WHAT is an urban cultivator? 

sprouts April 19 – Day 4: first sprouts appear

The Urban Cultivator is an indoor “fully automated kitchen garden.” The technology uses a hydroponic system to grow a variety of herbs in as little as a week.

pea sprouts April 21 – Day 6: pea sprouts are starting to look like plants (on the left)

WHICH seeds are we growing?

fully grown peas May 11 – Day 28: peas completed its growing season in the urban cultivator and continues to live on its own

Starting out, we planted four coconut fiber peat sheets on the second level of the cultivator with Bright Basil, Power Kale, Sugar Peas and Spicy Radish. On the third level, we are experimenting with Mighty Broccoli in a Seed Sheet. We expect the first radish and broccoli sprouts within a few days, as their growing season spans a sole week! More plant and herb varieties will be planted soon. After the initial testing concludes, we hope to serve the Urban Cultivator produce to customers of Café Vivian as part of the regular menu. 

RESULTS so far:

While the Seed Sheet broccoli didn’t bloom very successfully, all of the seeds planted in the coco fiber soil reached their full growth potential in the incredibly short period estimated by the Urban Cultivator.

The Sugar Pea, which now continues to grow on the porch of Campus Dining's office, illustrates the rapid growth period and high rate of successful seeds in the Urban Cultivator.

Having learned from our pilot planting, we are planning to acquire more of the successful coconut fiber peat and experiment with other seed varieties.

WHERE to find the cultivator?

Café Vivian on the Frist 100 Level

Currently, Bright Basil, the last tray of our pilot planting, is finishing its 4-week growing season – come check it out in Café Vivian!

Topics: food