Public Relations Specialist
ATLANTA—Georgia State University received a Fulcrum Award at Southface’s Greenprints conference March 12-14 in recognition of its hydroponic farm’s excellence in sustainable design, construction, planning and advocacy.
“We proudly recognize the Leafy Green Machine, which truly exemplifies innovative, scalable and equitable sustainability,” said Andrea Pinabell, president of Southface. “Groundbreaking projects like this help us move further toward a future that is resilient and regenerative.”
Fulcrum Award winners demonstrate excellence in three categories that contribute to a sustainable future: regenerative economy, responsible resource use and social equity through a healthy built environment for all. To select winners, Southface convened an independent panel of eight jurors with expertise in sustainability across a wide range of sectors.
“We are honored to be recognized along with such reputable organizations for a Southface Fulcrum Award as the Leafy Green Machine is a stellar example of the benefits of a living learning laboratory in higher education. Not only are we able to provide farm-to-table produce for dining operations, but our students receive hands-on training and research opportunities in urban agriculture,” said Jennifer Asman, sustainability initiatives program manager. “In the future, we hope to not only expand urban farming opportunities at the university but to share our success and find ways to replicate throughout the community and beyond.”
The Leafy Green Machine, funded by student sustainability fees, is a one-acre farm fashioned out of an upcycled shipping container produced by the Boston-based company Freight Farms.
Inside the futuristic farm is a series of environmental sensors measuring climate conditions that communicate with the in-farm controller to maintain optimal 365-days-per-year growing conditions. The windowless farm is also equipped with more than 125 LED lighting strips that mimic the sun’s natural light via growth-optimized blue and red hues.
After three weeks in the seedling station, the plants are transplanted into vertical hydroponic growing towers where emitters drip nutrient-rich water down the vertical grow tower using only 10 gallons of water daily to grow more than 4,500 plants. The water that isn’t consumed by the plant flows out the bottom of the tower and is then recirculated back to the water tank.
Since its implementation in July 2016, PantherDining grows about 500 heads of lettuce per week, harvesting Green Leaf, Butterhead lettuce, wasabi arugula, basil, thyme and Swiss Chard with no pesticides, bugs or soil. The produce is served at PantherDining’s catering events, retail outlets and dining halls, giving patrons the ultimate farm-to-table dining experience.
Other 2018 Fulcrum Award winners include: Live Thrive Atlanta’s Center for Hard to Recycle Materials and The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design. The Len Foote Hike Inn received a Lifetime Achievement Award honoring its 19th year protecting Georgia’s natural resources and teaching guests about sustainability’s value.