University of Arizona News: Biosphere 2 delivers first lettuce crop to Campus Pantry, food bank

Aug. 15, 2022
Butter lettuce Freight Farms first harvest

Biosphere 2

Biosphere 2 delivers first lettuce crop to Campus Pantry, food bank

The first crop of lettuce grown in a container farm at Biosphere 2 was delivered Monday to the University of Arizona Campus Pantry and the Impact of Southern Arizona community food bank. The crop included about 800 heads of red and green butter lettuce. 

The plan is to deliver fresh produce every other week.

"We are excited to share our first crop to come out of Biosphere 2's Modular Container Farm, the Freight Farms Greenery S," said John Adams, deputy director of Biosphere 2. "The Greenery S is the latest generation modular container farm that brings agriculture to a new dimension by growing and harvesting produce that is herbicide and pesticide free. It also uses non-genetically modified seeds in a controlled environment without the use of sunlight in the grow process." 

About 350 heads of lettuce were delivered to the Campus Pantry, which will help with the pantry's goal of providing food assistance to those in need on the UArizona campus. Operated by the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, the Campus Pantry hosts regular distribution events where students and employees can grab important food staples at no cost. The pantry accepts food and monetary donations.

About 450 heads went to Impact of Southern Arizona.

Biosphere 2's container farm is a hydroponic system that grows plants in nutrient-rich water instead of soil. The system packs commercial-scale crop production into a 320 square-foot space and can grow the equivalent of 2.5 acres of traditional farmland. 

The farm reduces water use by 99% compared to traditional agriculture because of a built-in dehumidifier, which enables water recapture and recycling. At the same time, optimized watering schedules, lights and climate conditions ensure that over 95% of the produce is sellable, Adams said. 

Biosphere 2 acquired the hydroponics system in part through a grant from the university's Campus Sustainability Fund, which offers about $550,000 in grant funding annually to advance sustainability and climate action on campus.

"This technology makes it possible to bring fresh food to an area where it might otherwise be impossible to grow and help to develop food of the future," Adams said.

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Media contact:
Mikayla Mace Kelley
University Communications