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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.

urban farming unit

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.

urban farming unit

The greenhouse operates on a system called Deep Water Culture. In total, there are 566 planting spots.

urban farming unit

Don Forster, Senior Manager, Custodial and Support Services, holds up the root of a lime basil measuring more than 100 centimetres. Once pulled from water, roots like this will be composted.

urban farming unit

Paula Echeveste Petrone, a Non-Profit and Social Sector Management student and Sustainable Business Management grad, works with Brandon Hebor of Ripple Farms during harvesting.

urban farming unit

Don Forster (left) examines the lime basil root with Steven Bourne

urban farming unit

The final bin full of leafy greens, including lime basil, garlic chives, rainbow chard, kale and parsley, weighed about five pounds.

urban farming unit

The Ripple Farms unit at Newnham Campus uses about 120 Nile tilapia in the fish tank.

urban farming unit

Samuel Kligman, cook at Newnham cafeteria, prepares a bowl of Cucumber Watermelon Quinoa Salad with Lime Basil Vinaigrette

urban farming unit

Chef Nancy Gilmour hands a tasting cup to Chris Dudley, Director, Seneca HELIX.