Over the summer, Stony Brook became the first university with a Freight Farm, also known as the Leafy Green Machine.
The curious green shipping container next to Roth Café is a hydroponic farm, growing plants without soil and regardless of the weather conditions outside.
The farm uses advanced environmental controls and LED lighting to grow the produce safely and rapidly. It is managed mainly by students and designed to grow a variety of leafy greens anywhere and any time. However, the possibilities are expanding.
“We have two dozen small business farmers who are growing using the Leafy Green Machine as their platform, and they are actually constantly experimenting, innovating and pushing the boundaries of what they can grow,” Brad McNamara, the co-founder of the Freight Farms company, said.
McNamara said he is proud that Freight Farms has made it to colleges and universities.
“It’s perfect really. We started in an abandoned parking lot at my university while I was a student there just a couple years ago,” he said referring to his time at Clark University. “We convinced them to let us use the parking space and we put a container there and built our prototype. We were growing stuff and including my friends and putting some in the cafeteria. It’s good to see it come full circle and get back to the campus.”
The introduction of the Leafy Green Machine is part of Stony Brook University’s continued efforts toward sustainability. It uses 90 percent less water than outdoor farming and decreases fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions, as it cuts down on transportation.
“It doesn’t get much more local than this,” Sustainability Coordinator Greg Monaco said.
Director of Sustainability James O’Connor said the future of the farm on campus looks bright.
“Ideally, if it’s a success, maybe we can add to it by bringing more Freight Farms here,” he said.
There is even hope that focusing on food sourced locally can lower dining prices.
“Freight Farms is an exciting opportunity for students to eat the food they grow, enhance their knowledge of sustainable agriculture and inspire them to live a more sustainable life,” Angela Agnello, a spokeswoman for the Faculty Student Association, said in an email.
The Freight Farm also provides a unique job opportunity for students.
“They see technology that they probably wouldn’t have known about or been able to work with on other locations on campus,” O’Connor said.
The first harvest is expected at the beginning of October, and the produce will be used in dining locations throughout campus.
Students who are interested in applying to work in the Leafy Green Machine can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.