September 24, 2015 6:23 pm
Updated: September 24, 2015 8:49 pm

Soil-free gardens at Grant MacEwan growing fast

WATCH ABOVE: taff and students at MacEwan University may have noticed a garden pop up in an unusual location. Tom Vernon explains.


EDMONTON – Common convention around gardening says you need three things to grow vegetables: sun, water and soil. A new pilot project at Grant MacEwan is looking to change that.

The project is called Tower Gardens, and it uses three tower-like rigs to grow plants without soil. The project uses a process called aeroponics to grow the plants. Through this process, a nutrient solution is filtered through the stem of each tower to the roots of each plant.

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“There’s no soil, no pests and everything is grown from seed on site,” said Kris Bruckmann, MacEwan’s retail and hospitality director.

If the process sounds space-age, there’s a good reason for that; the technology used in Tower Gardens was developed and put into practice by Disney, and used in attractions at Disney World’s EPCOT.

Plants grown through this project will be bought by Aramark, the company that runs MacEwan’s food services. Aramark will then use them in pre-packaged meals, catered events and the cafeteria salad bar.

Aramark’s main kitchen is a short distance from the gardens, meaning the food grown can be harvested and prepared quickly.

“To be able to walk through the parkade, just a couple hundred feet after harvesting, to preparing a product, is something most places can’t do,” said MacEwan service director Nathan Richuk.

Bruckmann said the project will be growing several types of veggies.

“Right now, we’re growing peppers, we have tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, sage, dill, and basil.”

“We have the ability pretty much to grow anything other than root vegetables, potatoes and carrots, which are pretty local and easy to find around here anyway,” he added.

The Tower Gardens project will run for six months. After that, university officials will decide on the project’s future.

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