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Crops harvested for Newnham cafeteria

Visitors to Newnham campus will likely be surprised that an odd-looking two-storey unit, located outside Building D, is actually a farm. And there’s fish in there too.

Sustainable Business Management grads Steven Bourne and Brandon Hebor have created the award-winning Ripple Farms that uses shipping containers with attached greenhouses to create a sustainable urban farming venture.

The unit combines aquaculture (raising fish) with hydroponics (soil-less plant cultivation) to produce organic food in urban settings. The fish provide feces, which is ammonia, that are filtered and then passed through a bio-reactor where it is converted to nitrites and then nitrates, a primary fertilizer used to grow plants in the greenhouse.

Last week, the first official harvest of the season produced five pounds of leafy greens, including lime basil, garlic chives, rainbow chard, kale and parsley. The crops were supplied to the kitchen at Newnham cafeteria and incorporated into a couple of menu items for free sampling and sale to inform people about the farm.

The unit outside Building D was purchased as part of Seneca’s ongoing effort to promote and embed sustainability in the institution’s culture. Facilities Management have been working closely with Steven and Brandon through all stages of the aquaponics farming cycle. The Facilities Management team oversees daily operations of the farm.

The produce will be harvested once a week and sold to Aramark, operator of Seneca Dining Services. Proceeds will help offset farm operational costs.

Ripple Farms was developed at HELIX.