Wednesday, June 1

SU Ag Center Researchers to Use Vertical Farming to Reduce Food Deserts

Drs. James Henson (standing left) and Marlin Ford setting up an Aeroponics System at the Southern University Ag Center.

Drs. Asebe Negatu (far left) and James Henson set up the Hydroponics Site.

SU Ag Center's Vertical Farm Research Area

Baton Rouge, LA – Food deserts are areas described as lacking access to fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy whole foods. In Louisiana these areas are growing concern because many of its residents lack grocery stores within convenient traveling distance to access affordable, healthy food options. This also contributes to the many health problems associated with proper diets.

Researchers at the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center are establishing the potential productivity of traditional row crop products, using vertical farming techniques such as: Aeroponics, a soil-less process of growing plants by nourishing their suspended roots with air or mist; Hydroponics, a method of growing plants using only liquid nutrients in water and Aquaponics, the soil-less growing of plants through the use of hydroponics and raising fish together in one system.

These techniques have the ability to grow crops indoors, on balconies, and in limited spaces in designated food desert areas.  The benefits of vertical farming include:

·         Year-round crop production; 1 indoor acre is equivalent to 4-6 outdoor acres, depending upon the crop (e.g., strawberries: 1 indoor acre = 30 outdoor acres).
·         Vertical farming returns farmland to nature, restoring ecosystem functions and services.
·         Vertical farming greatly reduces the incidence of many infectious diseases that are acquired at the agricultural interface.
·         Vertical farming greatly reduces the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables in food deserts. 
·         No weather-related crop failures due to droughts, floods or pests.
·         All vertically farmed food is grown organically: no herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers.
·         Vertical farming virtually eliminates agricultural runoff by recycling black water (waste water containing feces, urine and flush water from flush toilets along with anal cleansing water or toilet paper).

Researcher have begun growing lettuce, tomatoes, basil, bell peppers, and eggplants in the system.

For additional information about this project, contact Drs. Marlin Ford, James Henson or Asebe Negatu at 225.771.2242.


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