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DU's Greenhouse Goes Hydroponic

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Dominican's greenhouse has been undergoing some big changes since early June. Over the summer, Kalelys Calero, a post-baccaluareate student, has transformed the greenhouse so it is now solely based on mineral nutrient solutions (hydroponic) as opposed to soil.

"The switch will ensure that the plants aren't competing for nutrients and that they will grow faster," said Calero, who is studying nutrition and dietetics. "We will have more control over their growth." 

In addition to purchasing parts of the hydroponic system, Calero and her colleagues were resourceful and made some of the parts on their own. A bato bucket system will be used to grow tomatoes and a PVC system will be used to grow lettuce. Both of these were systems were supplemented by homemade equipment. 

"The goal is to enhance the greenhouse and have it be an asset for Dominican," said Calero. 

Calero has been working with a variety of faculty, staff and students on campus to make this happen.

"Since May 2017, Kalelys has been building her hydroponic systems and continuing research on hydroponics and the history of the greenhouse and I, for one, am so proud of her," said Catherine Nichin, sustainability coordinator for the university. "With the help of physical plant employees and volunteer nutrition students, the greenhouse has begun the transformation from an unused area to a new space for research and collaboration."

Calero represented Dominican at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Conference and Expo in San Antonino, TX in October. She is the first Dominican student invited to participate in the conference. Her poster presentation is titled  "A Fresh Start: From Soil Grown Greenhouse to Hydroponic" and you can read her proposal here‚Äč.  

Moving forward, Calero hopes to look into installing a more modern lighting system as well as adding more fans to enhance the greenhouse.

"We won't start planting until we have the ventilation and lighting system added to the greenhouse," said Calero.

This has been a project long in the making and it's a great way for the Dominican community to join forces.

"The greenhouse project has brought together Dominican faculty, staff and students to help create a new learning opportunity space," said Nichin. "The hydroponics team has helped with construction, funding, suggestions, proofing, historical details and continued support. Additional ongoing support is provided by other faculty behind the scenes and outside organizations and individuals to ensure the project's success.We are looking into possible grant funding for the lighting and ventilation needs and hoping to connect with interested faculty and students for future collaborations."

If you are interested in joining the hydroponics team, don't hesitate to stop by the greenhouse or reach out to any of the following:

Team Hydroponics:

Kalelys Calero-Gonzalez, sustainability student intern

Bryanna Hanson (student volunteer)

Emily Sabo (student volunteer)

Omar Alshekhmubarak, student worker in physical plant

Mary Sadofsky, Auxiliary Services

Jeff Powell, Physical Plant

Cathy Nichin, Sustainability

Lisa Carlson, Nutrition

Derrick Hilton, Biology

Denise King, Nursing

Ellen McManus, CTLE Director

Sr. Janet Welsh, McGreal Center Director

Steven Szegedi, Archivist Chicago Roots Hydroponics and Organics