Students walking by The Nugget Pub and Grill this semester may have noticed leafy greens and vegetables sprouting from white, towering pillars. This new installment isn’t just for looks, the 20 new hydroponic systems will soon provide fresh produce to students and staff at Long Beach State.
Produce grown from the hydroponic systems will include lettuce, spinach, cucumbers and peppers— all of which will soon be available at The Chartroom restaurant’s salad bar and possibly the residence halls.
The first of the crops will go to The Chartroom salad bar and will not be ready for three to four more weeks, but students and faculty can expect to see the greens and herbs go from tower to table throughout the year.
These hydroponic systems on campus currently harbor a variety of “dirty dozen” plants, which are produce particularly bad because they absorb pesticides.
Donald Penrod, general manager and chief executive of the nonprofit Forty-Niner Shops, was looking for a way to incorporate local produce into on-campus dining when Lettuce Grow approached him. As a Playa-Vista based startup company, Lettuce Grow specializes in sustainable food growing, and made Pendrod’s wish come to fruition with the installment of the systems.
These systems grow produce suspended in a vertical tower, as opposed to traditional farming, and require water and nutrients to feed the plants. This method uses less ground space and water, meaning the systems can be placed in urban areas.
“I thought ‘that’s kind of a neat idea’ — we’ll take a shot at it,” Penrod said.
According to Penrod, the hydroponic systems are not currently saving Long Beach State any money but are using funds dedicated from the Forty-Niner shops.
While Lettuce Grow also works with other colleges such as University of Southern California and San Diego State University to provide fresh and sustainable produce, Wood has a more personal connection to LBSU as an alumnus. During his time spent at the university, Wood studied environmental science and was eager to give back to the college after graduating.
“If I had this on campus I would have been so excited and wanted to be involved,” Wood said.
For some students on campus, such as sophomore fashion merchandising major Taylor Eccles, his notion for excitement reigns true.
“I love that the school is being eco-friendly,” Eccles said. “Growing up with a garden, I was used to having fresh herbs and vegetables so the fact that we now have this on campus is great.”
Aside from providing fresh vegetables and herbs to The Chartroom restaurant and possibly the residence halls, 10 percent of the crops produced will also go straight to the on campus pantry and Isabel Patterson Child Development Center. Lettuce Grow and Penrod are still unsure as to how successfully the crops will produce, but they will assess the economic feasibility and production of the systems over the next year.
Penrod believes that this pilot project benefits students and faculty and is worth the cost due to it providing the campus with hyper-local produce and beauty to the once vacant area outside of the Nugget Pub & Grill.
“It’s a beautiful show and tell,” Penrod said.
If this pilot project proves successful, Penrod hopes to add more hydroponic systems to other areas of the campus.