The construction is complete, the heating and cooling system is ready to go, and the pipes are flowing with nutrient-rich water. Now it’s time to start planting. In just a few short weeks, the Culinary Institute of Virginia’s new hydroponic greenhouse will be bursting with fresh produce, including five types of lettuce, tomatoes, herbs, eggplant, and peppers.
ECPI University’s College of Culinary Arts is among the first to build its own hydroponic garden to be used in conjunction with culinary instruction. Today, members of the school’s academic advisory board toured the facility and helped plant the first seeds.
Restaurateurs across the country are embracing the “Farm to Table” movement which advocates the use of locally-sourced food to reduce transit time, thereby reducing the use of fossil fuels and improving freshness. The plants at the Culinary Institute of Virginia will grow in nutrient-rich water. It’s called hydroculture and it allows faculty and student to grow produce in a near-perfect environment.
There are also no pesticides and no worries about too much or too little rain, or whether it’s too hot or too cold. The result: plants grow much faster and much larger. Lettuce, for example, takes up to eight weeks to grow. In a hydroculture greenhouse, it can take as little as four weeks. As for tomatoes, it’s expected that those plants should produce about two and a half tons per year!
“The Hydroculture Garden and Learning Center will enhance the education of CIV students in so many ways,” says Campus Provost Andy Gladstein. “Students will not just read about the benefits of sourcing local ingredients, they will get hands-on experience growing vegetables and herbs that will then be used in class. In any restaurant, the quality of ingredients used is as important as the chef preparing them, and we hope to instill this in our students by making the best possible produce available to them on a daily basis.”