Student Government’s Energy and Conservation Organization board is bringing nature indoors with the introduction of hydroponic gardens in public spaces around the University of Miami.
The gardens, called “Click and Grow Wall Farms,” have been successfully implemented in the university’s Ungar building and will soon pop up along the Whitten University Center staircase.
The plants in the “grow walls” are not planted in soil but instead sit in water with a “smart soil” solution that gives them the nutrients they need. This method eliminates the need for pesticides and minimizes the amount of water needed to sustain the plants.
Deven Reyes, a sophomore business law and economics major and the ECO sustainability education chair, said the gardens educate the student body on indoor growing techniques and increase involvement in on-campus horticulture.
“I believe this project will help grow the amount of student involvement with gardening and the science school,” said Reyes. “The plants grown in the wall farms may one day be used for on-campus dining.”
The grow wall can house up to 75 plant pods at once. A variety of plants can be grown in the pods– from strawberries and chili peppers to petunias and garden sage. As the plants grow too large for the wall farm, students will transfer them to the university’s community gardens.
The ECO division of Student Government is working in conjunction with the ecosystem science and policy department’s class on research in private urban and suburban green spaces. Two students in the class have chosen to take on the project and research how to grow the plants efficiently.
Caitlin Camarena, a junior ecosystem science and policy major, said she and her partner make small alterations as the garden in Ungar grows. Their goal is to create the most efficient growing times and healthiest product, and they will move the plants to the UC once they finish adjusting perfecting the garden.
Camarena said that the garden has opened her eyes to the benefits of indoor growing. Not only does it allow for on-demand, fresh produce in urban environments, but it also can benefit the grower, she said.
“I’ve started to pay attention to my food sources, and I’m realizing that my hydroponic garden can help give more people access to fresh produce,” Camarena said. “Installing the garden isn’t easy work, but it’s totally worth it. Tending the garden is just as relaxing as working in a traditional garden.”
The garden also provides therapeutic benefits to those who spend their time in the UC lounge, Camarena said. Bringing the plants indoors allows for fresher air and relaxing benefits.
“Not only is it aesthetically pleasing to see the pink lights and organized assortment of greenery, but it’s just as fun to garden without needing to get your hands dirty,” she said.
Emily Adrid, a sophomore ecosystem science and policy major and the other member of the grow wall team, said that introducing urban gardening to the community is a major goal of the grow wall.
“Our goal is eventually to let any student go up to the garden and harvest whatever they want,” Adrid said.