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From Soil to Solution

From Soil to Solution: KCC's Hydroponics Project Ushers in a Sustainable Farming Era

From Soil to Solution: KCC's Hydroponics Project Ushers in a Sustainable Farming Era

From Soil to Solution: KCC's Hydroponics Project Ushers in a Sustainable Farming Era

 Brooklyn, NY — Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York (KCC) has received a grant of $250,000 to launch a groundbreaking two-year initiative to equip New Yorkers with the knowledge and skills needed to excel in the emerging hydroponic farming sector.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded the grant as part of a $4.7 million investment in agricultural workforce training at community colleges. NIFA was established by the Food Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (the 2008 Farm Bill) to find innovative solutions to issues related to agriculture, food, the environment, and communities.

NIFA’s agricultural workforce training program goal is to develop a workforce ready for the field as well as industry jobs in the food and agricultural sector. Through the development of new workforce training programs, or the expansion, improvement or renewal of existing workforce training programs at community, junior and technical colleges/institutes, this program will expand job-based, experiential learning opportunities, acquisition of industry-accepted credentials and occupational competencies for students to enable a work-ready labor force for the 21st century.

Titled "Hydroponics at Kingsborough Community College" (H-KCC), the project aims to bridge the knowledge gap and create opportunities for individuals interested in hydroponic farming in order to contribute to a more sustainable and locally-driven food production landscape. Currently, New York City lacks comprehensive hydroponic training programs that offer workforce preparation and higher educational advancement in this field.

Hydroponics is an innovative method of farming that uses water-based nutrients to cultivate plants, replacing traditional soil. Often housed indoors or in greenhouses, these farms range from large commercial enterprises to small-scale home-based operations.

“Hydroponics is important because it helps us grow food efficiently, especially in urban environments when we don't have a lot of space to grow or we may be dealing with depleted or contaminated soils,” noted Dr. Shannon Caravello, assistant professor of health sciences at KCC and administrator of the KCC Community Farm and Garden. She is spearheading the H-KCC project. “Plants grow faster and can have increased production in hydroponics due to precise control of their environment, and it allows year-round farming even in small spaces or indoors, making sure we have a steady supply of delicious vegetables. Having alternative growing methods can help alleviate food insecurity issues, especially when dealing with increasing climate issues worldwide.”

“As our communities continue to be affected by the climate crisis, it is more critical now than ever to empower college students to become leaders and advocates for climate justice, and to provide them with tools to build a climate-resilient society,” added Manuela Zamora, executive director of NY Sun Works, which is building the state-of-the-art hydroponic lab at the College. “This innovative new program will help students to bridge the green divide and gain access to new green career options.”

The H-KCC initiative comprises four integral components:

  1. Hydroponics Classroom: KCC will establish an on-campus hydroponics classroom, providing a hands-on learning environment for participants to gain practical experience and expertise in hydroponic farming techniques.
  2. Hydroponic Microcredential: The development of a specialized hydroponic farming microcredential will equip participants with industry-accepted skills and knowledge essential for success in the hydroponic farming sector.
  3. Hydroponic Instructors: Through collaboration with New York Sun Works, a distinguished NYC-based non-profit, KCC will train a cohort of hydroponic instructors who will play a pivotal role in disseminating knowledge and skills to future hydroponic farmers.
  4. Hydroponic Workforce Training Program: "Hydroponics at KCC" will culminate in the establishment of a comprehensive workforce training program, empowering participants with the ability to embark on fulfilling careers in the hydroponic farming industry.

By partnering with New York Sun Works, known for their Discovering Sustainability Science curriculum for K-12 public schools, H-KCC aims to engage students, educators, and communities in promoting science, sustainability, and locally-sourced food production.

The project will begin with a pilot phase targeting recent high school graduates interested in the green economy and alternative farming methods, particularly those from schools with hydroponic facilities. Following the pilot's successful evaluation, the program will expand to accommodate two additional cohorts, open to the wider public.

KCC President Claudia Schrader explained that KCC's commitment to fostering innovation, sustainability, and community development drives the Hydroponics at KCC project. “Preparing and educating our students on a wide range of urban agriculture growing methods will contribute to a highly prepared workforce, which can help us move toward a more sustainable food system in New York City.”

For more information about the program, email CFG.KCC@KBCC.CUNY.EDU or call 718-368-6578.

 About Kingsborough Community College

Founded in 1963, Kingsborough Community College is Brooklyn’s only community college and is part of the City University of New York (CUNY). Located on a 70-acre campus in Manhattan Beach, Kingsborough remains firmly committed to its mission of providing both liberal arts and career education, promoting student learning and development, as well as strengthening and serving its diverse community.  Kingsborough provides a high-quality education through associate degree programs that prepare students for transfer to senior colleges or entry into the workforce. Serving approximately 10,000 full- and part-time students annually and an additional 10,000 students in its expanding continuing education program, Kingsborough has earned recognition as a Leader College of Distinction for excellence in student success by Achieving the Dream, and has been identified as a Top Community College in the nation by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program seven consecutive times.

 About the KCC Division of Workforce Development, Strategic Partnerships

Kingsborough Community College’s Division of Workforce Development, Strategic Partnerships has a long history of successfully executing workforce-training programs. Its broad range of programs promotes learning, enrichment and career and professional development. It has provided thousands with job training, college entrance preparation, and personal development, with a focus on careers in health, technology, business and trade.

About New York Sun Works

An U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) and Harvard Business School Club of New York (HBSCNY) award-winning organization, NY Sun Works is a non-profit organization that builds innovative science labs in urban schools. Serving a diverse population of students primarily across the five boroughs of New York City, as well as a growing number of schools in the greater metropolitan area, they are dedicated to bringing high-quality education to where it’s most needed and envision a generation of environmental innovators, empowered to create solutions to global climate challenges. Through their Greenhouse Project Initiative, they use hydroponic farming technology to educate students and teachers about the science of sustainability.

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