Need This New Innovation? Sustainable Garden At The Airport
There are many places that you might expect to find a vegetable garden these days, from schools to rooftops. No longer are they limited to farms and backyards. Even with all of these new places opening up, it is still very odd to think of a garden at a busy airport. Not just a garden -- a vertical, aeroponic garden full of fresh vegetables that supply the restaurants inside Chicago O'Hare International Airport.
The garden is located in an alcove between terminals 2 and 3 of the ORD Rotunda building and is probably overlooked by most of the people who pass through the busy airport. A series of 26 vertical towers with high-powered lights grow a wide variety of herbs, greens, edible flowers and a few tomatoes in over 1,000 pockets. The seeds are initially germinated in small cubes of volcanic rock and then transplanted into place in the towers. Signs show where the produce will end up -- with the airport and restaurants within the airport as the users and travelers as the recipients.
The towers use an aeroponic system to grow the plants. Aeroponics is a growing method that uses air and mist to raise the plants. By not using soil the plants grow much faster than they would in the ground. They are watered with a nutrient-rich solution from within the towers.
The garden is a collaborative effort between Chicago Department of Aviation and HMS Host Corporation. It has a reduced spatial footprint and uses only 5% of the water normally required for a garden this size. Water runoff is also recirculated through the system. The set up is so efficient that the garden produces about 13 harvests a year.
The crops include Swiss chard, arugula, basil, chives, cilantro, dill, sage, thyme, oregano, edible flowers (such as violas and nasturtiums), mixed lettuces, tomatoes, an assortment of hot peppers and a variety of lettuces.
So next time you find yourself in O'Hare and you have the time, it might be worth checking out the garden. Actual comfortable chairs and tables are set up to create a somewhat park-like feeling. You could also stop by for a bite to eat in one of the restaurants that make use of the garden -- like Wicker Park Seafood and Sushi.
Not only is this set up green in its use of water and space, growing right there in the airport reduces the need to transport the produce over long distances. At the same time the garden also allows for the freshest produce possible for everyone who uses it.
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Laurie Kay Olson
Clever Problem Solvers