Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 61.29
Liaison Kalen Pilkington
Submission Date Aug. 31, 2018
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

MacEwan University
IN-25: Innovation B

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00 Kerstyn Lane
Engagement and Outreach Advisor
Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Name or title of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
Urban Food Systems & Early Learning

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome that outlines how credit criteria are met and any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation:

Campus Services houses several initiatives geared towards food sustainability and food consciousness around campus. In an effort to promote sustainable food practices and to decrease MacEwan’s ecological footprint, the department partnered with the Office of Sustainability to install and operate three indoor agriculture food systems:

I) 4 Aeroponic Tower Gardens (installed in 2014, Spiral Staircase Building 6)
II) 2 Urban Cultivators (installed in September 2016, City Centre Market)
III) 120 gallon/96 plant Aquaponics garden (installed in September 2016, Early Learning Child Care Centre)

The project transforms limited and underutilized space into a sustainable and responsible area to grow microgreens produce, such as peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and herbs like mint, sage, dill, and basil (for more information see backgrouder at the bottom).

Within this context, particular emphasis should be placed on the Aquapnics garden, which was placed in the Early Learning Child Care Centre. In doing so, we hope to introduce children of a very young age to sustainable and organic food systems and to educate about the implications of food security through experiential learning.

The children are involved with selecting the seeds, germinating them, monitoring, and harvesting with support from Spruce Permaculture (contracted partner) as needed. The Centre organized a harvest lunch with Kaz from Spruce Permaculture for which the children and educators harvested the vegetables and created various dishes and invited Kaz in to eat with them. As one of the educators stated: "The children have also been monitoring the peppers daily. They have enjoyed watching them change colours. The children request to visit the fish when they are feeling sad. They sit in front of the tank and watching the fish has proven to be an excellent calming tool."

Another unique and positive outcome is that not only the Early Learners, but various community members come together to learn about local, indoor food systems and low-impact dining. Target groups include MacEwan students, staff and faculty members as well as Food Services’ partners and clients and other external community members (formats include tours for classes, like Sustainability 201, and public 'Urban Food Systems' tours). The majority of the harvested vegetables and herbs are then used by MacEwan Food Services for pre-packaged meals, catered events, in the cafeteria and by the chefs of Towers on Fourth Pub.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

I) Using aeroponic technology, Tower Gardens (http://www.towergarden.ca/tg) grow plants with only water and nutrients, no soil is required. A pump in the reservoir ensures that water, oxygen, and an organic nutrient blend are delivered when needed. The nutrient uptake is greater, and no harmful chemicals are used during the process. As a result, aeroponic systems grow plants three to four times faster and produce 30% greater yields on average when compared to traditional farming. Yet, they require only 10% of the land and water of traditional growing methods. MacEwan has grown tomatoes and herbs. Currently, basil is produced to make pesto for use in food services and sales for revenue generation

II) More herbs and microgreens, are harvested from the Urban Cultivator indoor gardens. Like the Tower Gardens, these systems work with 100% organic nutrient solutions. The humidity, watering cycles, and temperature are regulated for optimal results. Microgreens take less time and have more nutrients than their mature counterparts. At MacEwan, we grow beets, kohlrabi, radish and other sprouts, which are used by vendors in City Centre Market and MacEwan Food Services. Their kitchens are a short distance from the Urban Cultivators and Tower Gardens, meaning the food is harvested and prepared quickly. Due to immediate harvest, no packaging is required. Our contracted partner, Spruce Permaculture, has experimented with coconut husk and hemp growing mats, which are easier to use and more sustainable alternatives to soil.

III) Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture, which is growing fish and other aquatic animals, and hydroponics which is growing plants without soil. Aquaponics uses these two in a symbiotic combination in which plants are fed the aquatic animals' discharge or waste. Mac Ewan’s aquaponic system is located in the Early Learning Child Care Centre. The lettuce greens, tomatoes, and herbs are currently growing well! The early sprouts are raised in planters that were designed by MacEwan engineering students using 3D-printed biofilament parts.


Which of the following impact areas does the innovation most closely relate to? (select up to three):
Campus Enagement
Food & Dining
Grounds

A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise or a press release or publication featuring the innovation :
The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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