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Student Farm at Penn State Harnesses the Power of Hydroponics

Posted by Izaiah Bokunewicz, Wed, April 18

Hydroponics is derived from two Greek words: “hydro,” meaning water, and “ponics,” meaning labor.  The concept of using an aerated nutrient solution and additional lighting to provide energy for photosynthesis is both interesting and promising.  Today, complex hydroponic systems can grow highly nutritious foods in rapid amounts of time, with customized lighting and controlled growing environments.

Local agriculture

The Student Farm Club at Penn State is a student organization that manages an outdoor one-acre farm over the spring, summer and fall seasons.  Over the winter, production continues with hydroponic systems, where student volunteers grow fresh leafy-greens, then deliver them to the dining hall. The success of the system depends on many factors, from the quality of seeds to the success of water-pumps, to the local cost of electricity to the final sale price that Penn State will pay for the produce.


Harvesting solutions

Managing the systems has been a continual learning experience that students are always working to improve. One example of development efforts is a project to improve the delivery process. After harvesting a crop, student volunteers must carry the produce in closed containers across campus from our greenhouse to the dining hall.  This container must not be placed on the ground at all during this process, and the weight of the container only increases as harvests increase. To address this, the Farm Club is currently collaborating with an engineering club on campus to design an e-bike. Our hope is that the bike will be able to hold multiple harvest containers on the back while students bike the deliveries across campus.


It’s another example of how our club is trying to make a sustainable, positive impact at Penn State with modern agricultural technologies.

The video overview of our hydroponics system and delivery to dining halls can be found here


Izaiah Bokunewicz is a sophomore at Pennsylvania State University in the College of Agricultural Sciences. He is studying plant sciences and is a member of the Student Farm Club. Connect with Izaiah on Instagram and Twitter: @irob1217