Have you seen the plastic tubes and other scientific-looking materials on the first floor of the student center?
Earlier this fall, many spectators drew to the grand opening of Saint Peter’s first hydroponics farm, which is located on the first floor of the Mac Mahon Student Center.
The Center for Urban Research in Agriculture, or CURA, is a water-based indoor farming system, meaning no soil or getting your hands dirty is involved for this specialized setup. The mastermind behind all of this is Brandy Garrett Kluthe, Ph.D., associate professor of biology and director of the environmental studies program.
In 2021 the U.S. Department of Education granted Saint Peter’s a $4.8 million grant for a project titled STEM-PODER. The grant includes funding for two innovation centers, one of which is the hydroponics farm, which is designed to provide hands-on training, field experience and specialized research for students.
“This industry will need students with experience in biology, plant research, water chemistry, computer technology, as well as marketing and business just to name a few,” said Garrett-Kluthe. “Our students will get the hands-on opportunity here, at CURA.”
One student who is benefitting is Junanyelis Flores, a biology major.
“Working and researching on CURA's farm or in the hydroponics laboratory will help me fully understand Controlled Environment Agriculture,” she said. “Allowing me to work around plants and different types of greens that I really enjoy. I am very excited to see the results of our future research.”
One of the goals for the Center for Urban Research in Agriculture is to start off small by growing lettuce, cabbage and other easy to grow vegetables. All leafy greens produced will be donated to the Campus Kitchen for students and faculty to enjoy.