What is the Science Barge?
The Science Barge is a sustainable urban farm powered by solar, wind, and biofuels, and irrigated by rainwater and purified river water.
What does it do?
We grow fruits and vegetables in the city with no carbon emissions, no net water consumption, and no waste stream. The vegetables grown on the Science Barge require seven times less land and four times less water than field crops.
How does it work?
The Barge uses a system called recirculating greenhouse hydroponics. This means that our plants get all of the necessary nutrients through the water, as opposed to getting them through the soil. Arable soil is a very precious resource in our increasingly populated world, and is rarely available in cities; therefore, alternatives must be created to conserve what we have left.
By using only collected rainwater and purified river water to irrigate our crops, the Barge does not tap into water sources that are necessary for providing drinking water, etc. In the greenhouse, this water can be used over and over again, allowing us to use much less than a farm on land.
We are able to produce more fruits and vegetables in less space because our plants are getting all of the nutrients they need directly, so they do not need to spend energy creating intricate root systems as they would in soil. This way, plants can by grown much closer together, and grow much faster.
We power the greenhouse with solar, wind, and biofuels – energy that is carbon neutral, so we’re not contributing to global warming.
Why is this a good idea?
More than half the world’s population now lives in cities. Delivering food to them relies on a transportation system that pollutes the air and water. Conventional farming exhausts fresh water supplies and pollutes streams and rivers with fertilizers. Traditional energy plants contribute to air pollution and global warming. If cities can produce some of their own food, energy, and water then this burden will be lighter. Also, in a changing climate, food security will be compromised in certain parts of the world. Urban agriculture protects people while it protects the environment.
What are you trying to demonstrate?
That growing food in the city is good for the environment and good for people. In a world of climate change, rapid urbanization, and increasing pollution, urban agriculture can help us live more sustainably.
How do you define sustainable?
To us, sustainability means producing what we need without damaging the world around us.
Why should Yonkers care?
Unless we become a more sustainable city, we can expect prices for food and energy to continue to rise, and we can expect traffic congestion and air pollution to get worse. The Barge is a great place to learn about how we can support a more sustainable future.
How are you getting the message across?
We run a very active public education program, with school groups from Westchester, New York City and the greater New York area visiting during the week, and the general public on weekends.
Why a barge?
Although the systems on the Barge were designed for rooftop farms, a touring barge makes us more visible and accessible to the public. A barge is a great place for an urban farm for the same reasons a rooftop is; it receives direct sunlight and more wind for the turbines and can be installed in urban areas.
Who’s doing this?
Groundwork Hudson Valley is an Environmental Non-Profit dedicated to working with the local community to transform the social and physical environment.
How are you funded?
We receive state, federal, corporate, and foundation support. We also receive individual donations. We’re always looking for new sources of support. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in becoming a partner or supporter of this project.
How long is the program?
The Barge will be docked in Yonkers for the foreseeable future.
Who else is doing it?
Urban agriculture is practiced all over the world, in places like Shanghai, Havana, and Dakar. Sometimes these farms aren’t safe – urban soil and water is often contaminated. Meanwhile, hydroponics is proven and profitable but not used enough in cities. To do that, we need to supply water and energy sustainably. This is what the Science Barge demonstrates.
The Barge was designed as a prototype for rooftop gardens. Schools are a good place to implement rooftop gardens because they need fresh vegetables at lunchtime, and because a greenhouse makes a great science lab. While educating students from k-PhD, NY Sun Works is installing rooftop farms at various locations throughout NY and the surrounding areas. For more information about NY Sun Works, click here.
How much food could you grow this way?
Studies suggest there could be enough rooftop space in New York City to grow all of our fresh vegetables.
What does Groundwork do with the food that is produced on the Barge?
We harvest every other week and donate our goods to a local church. We also use some of the produce for our new Environmental Food Team.
Why did the Barge change ownership?
NY Sun Works developed the Barge as a prototype for rooftop farms. After promoting their design over the course of a few growing seasons, they generated enough interest in installing new farms around the city to find the Barge a new home where it could serve as a major educational tool. They needed to find an organization to take over or it would have been dismantled. They selected Groundwork as the ideal group and Groundwork gladly took on the opportunity.
The Barge was “sold” to Groundwork Hudson Valley in October, 2008 for $2.00.