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Rooftop Aquaponics Greenhouse in NYC High School Grows Fish and Plants

The dream of a rooftop, cutting-edge aquaponics greenhouse at one of New York’s most innovative high schools is about to burst into reality.

Officials at Food and Finance High School and their partners at Cornell University Cooperative Extension-NYC announced today that the school has secured a total of $1.37 million through the offices of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and State Sen. Tom Duane. The funding allows Food and Finance High School to move toward construction of the 4,500-square-foot project at its 525 W. 50th St. facility – a rooftop green revolution that will advance the school’s science curriculum, offer students a hands-on education in state-of-the-art growing skills and help feed the community.

Urban Food System - Science Technology, Education + Food

“This exciting roof project really puts us at the cutting edge of science technology, education and food production,” says Principal Roger Turgeon. “For a culinary arts school in an urban area, to be able to produce food at this scale is a major achievement.”

The aquaponics greenhouse will link Food and Finance’s advanced aquaculture and hydroponics programs under a new rooftop structure on the northwestern portion of the West 50th Street Education Campus. Nutrient water from the school’s tilapia tanks will be used to help sustain the plants, while the plants provide a natural filter to clean the water for the fish. The greenhouse will get a significant amount of its power from solar, wind and hydro energy technologies – minimizing the project’s demands on the electrical grid and its carbon footprint.

Greenhouse for Teaching, Food Productioin and Science Hub for Extension Education

The greenhouse will be used for teaching, food production and as a science hub for the New York City area, says Philson Warner, Cornell University Cooperative Extension scientist and developer of the aquaponics technology to be used in the rooftop project. Food produced will be used in the school’s culinary programs, at the school’s cafeteria, be sold to local restaurants and donated to area homeless shelters.

Sustainable Aquaponics = Hydroponics + Aquaculture Systems

“The technology is unique and the results will be eye opening to many. The mutually sustainable hydroponic and aquaculture systems – forming a high-functioning aquaponic system – will use minimal energy and in fact may contribute to the city's power grid,” says Warner. “Students will have first-hand knowledge of how science is used to produce the cleanest and freshest food possible – scientific training that will really give them a leg up in getting into good colleges.”

Food and Finance High School for Cutting Edge Public High School Education

Cornell University is a lead partner with the New York City Department of Education in building Food and Finance High School into one of the jewels of the nation’s largest public education system. The school stresses the core academic courses, and takes advantage of Cornell’s knowledge and resources to create a unique program that focuses on culinary arts and finance related to the food industry. Its 400-plus students are carefully prepared for both college and careers in the food industry.

“Providing the opportunity for students to connect the production, preparation and consumption of food is unprecedented,” says Turgeon. “It also enables us to promote and teach sustainability and healthy eating. Today, it is not enough to teach culinary arts – students must understand food systems and be environmentally cognizant.”

Total project cost is estimated at $2 million, with additional support for the project provided by Cornell University.