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The Museum is making preparations to grow and harvest edible crops on the property again. Two different types of hydroponic systems will be explored at the Museum, one using a series of planters in the Wildlife Center (supported by the Batchelor Foundation), and the other a Vertically Integrated Greenhouse (VIG) in the Sea Lab – VIGs can grow food crops vertically up the side of a building! These exhibits will serve as prototypes for some of the green components envisioned for the new Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, scheduled to open in Museum Park in 2015.

Hydroponics is the process of growing plants in water, without the use of soil. There are many advantages to this method, one of the most important being that it uses lesswater. Each system includes a reservoir of nutrient-rich water, and the same water is cycled through the plants and drains back into the reservoir. Because they use recirculating systems, hydroponic systems also help to reduce the amount of fertilizers running off into rivers and streams. And since no soil is required for these systems, they make it possible to grow food in areas where the soil lacks sufficient nutrients or is just too poor to grow anything on. Soil itself is not essential to plant growth. When the required nutrients are introduced into a plant’s water supply artificially, soil is no longer necessary for the plant to thrive. Additionally, pests and diseases are easier to get rid of and control due to the container’s mobility.

“We live in an age of natural resource constraints, and our food supply chains are becoming stretched,” said Environmental Engineer Dr. Ted Caplow, special advisor to Miami Science Museum and inventor of the VIG. These hydroponic exhibits will give the young visitors of today some of the tools needed to solve the problems of tomorrow. By growing food in our cities, we can improve the health of our ecosystem while boosting our own nutrition at the same time.”

Thanks to their flexible design, hydroponic systems allow people in inner cities to obtain fresh produce, which might not be available otherwise. Since they take up less room than traditional farms, urban farms can produce more food in a much smaller space, which reduces the need to ship fruits and veggies in from all over the world, thereby reducing the amount of fossil fuels used to transport the food. This helps to reduce the carbon footprint of the city.

 

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