According to the Food and Drug Administration, 40% of produce is lost before consumption. In addition, half of the nutrients in that produce is lost on the 1500 miles from farm to table. There’s got to be a better way to cut the carbon footprint, provide sustainable food, and eliminate waste in a cost-effective and safe manner. There is. It’s called micro-farming, and it’s happening right now at the University of Virginia courtesy of Babylon Micro-Farms. Our indoor, all-in-one farming units yield fresh produce, grown on site – and the students, faculty, and staff are not the only ones reaping the benefits.
A Healthier Student Body
The goal of the micro-farms at UVA, according to Samantha Jameson, the Sustainability Director for Aramark UVA Dining, was to increase sustainability options in the dining room as well as provide opportunities for students to engage in the growing systems. As students slowly become more eco-conscious, they want to be kept in the loop – whether that is growing their own food or knowing where it comes from. Our indoor units let students watch the progress of their farming and generate excitement throughout the campus. The students are involved from seed to harvest as they learn and live sustainable agriculture. They also get to enjoy great-tasting, nutrient-rich produce that they helped to grow.
Going Green and Saving Green
Developing green technologies with our farming system has kept the staff at the university engaged as well, and they are always on the lookout for ways to source local, sustainable produce. The low-maintenance system has a regular, consistent monthly cost, with no surprises due to spoilage or recalls. Babylon’s waste-free process yields beautiful produce, and Jameson claims, “it should be a staple in dining rooms across the country.” As it is, the university has units in every one of its dining rooms. Using less water (by about 90%) and producing higher yields (15 sq. ft. of a micro-farm produces the same as 2000 sq. ft. of an outdoor farm), the Babylon units have put vegetables on the menu and sustainable agriculture on the minds of everyone who sees them. And at UVA, that’s everyone.
Beyond the Campus Walls
As the demand for healthy food in urban areas increases, two fast growing college major tracks here and abroad are Sustainable Agriculture and Organic/Urban Farming. The need for sustainable, efficient food sources has also impacted other fields such as ecology, business, and public health. These areas of study available to students along with the current positive experience of micro-farming at UVA can translate into real-world solutions to food insecurity, waste, and the negative environmental impacts of lengthy food supply chains.
At Babylon Micro-Farms, our mission is simple: to help people grow food anywhere. With the excitement and success micro-farming has generated in higher education, our mission might be accomplished sooner than anyone thought possible.