LIVINGSTON, NJ — As the Township of Livingston continues to brainstorm ways to make the best use of its open spaces, Keith Hines and sustainable agriculture expert Tom Erickson recently proposed a hydroponic pilot project that would use a nutrient solution and water in lieu of soil for a community garden.
After the duo’s initial proposal to implement the project at the Essex County Riker Hill Art Park fell through, the township is now looking into the possibility of doing so at the recently purchased Strahman Hill Park property.
Erickson recently presented a slideshow to the township illustrating how hydroponic technology works and demonstrating how hydroponic farming utilizes rain and solar power to grow healthy produce that can be donated to local food pantries.
“The project itself uses horticulture hydro-culture techniques to sustainably produce crops in an efficient organic manner with no impact to air, water or local environment, which is pretty important to us,” said Erickson, who also explained that hydroponics have a zero-carbon footprint. “We also plan on using the latest low-cost electronics to add a layer of control and monitoring that allows participation of the town administrators, fire and police.”
According to Erickson, the hydroponic project could also provide unique educational opportunities for students interested in agricultural engineering and environmental sciences.
Erickson’s slideshow, much of which can be seen in the photos above, depicted a concept drawing of a greenhouse, plant-growing racks inside the greenhouse, the low-cost computer that would run the program, piping to transport the water and nutrient solution, sensors, a water pump, an aeration pump, a storage battery to operate the system at night and on rainy days, multiple solar panels and more.
He also demonstrated that an easy-to-install solar kit powers all water flow, aeration, lighting, monitoring and security and that a basic, low-cost computer can monitor temperature, humidity and liquid levels, security cameras and sound or motion detectors.
“Our mission is to supplement the local food pantries in a sustainable, organic and efficient fashion with low environmental impact and potential for education,” said Erickson. “I think this has high potential to team up with the high school, the elementary school and open up doors to learning and training at the educational level.”
Hines, who is known in the Livingston area for his philanthropic endeavors, thanked the township council for considering a project that he feels would be important to the entire community.
“It’s obviously incredibly high-tech stuff and really fascinating in terms of what can be accomplished with the technology and the fact that it’s not going to have any footprint at all,” said Mayor Shawn Klein, who was impressed that the project has the potential to generate nutritious food for people who don’t have access to it without causing problems with fertilizer or run off. “I think it sounds great, and hopefully we’ll have a lot of success and be able to expand even in the same footprint as the county park or maybe even in town.”
To learn more or to view Hines and Erickson’s full presentation to the Livingston Township Council, CLICK HERE. (The slideshow can be found about 23 minutes into the hyperlinked video.)
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