Vertical Gardens Sprout at Chicago Airport

May 11, 2012

By Blair Thomas

vertical gardens at Chicago O'Hare

These vegetable gardens are reaching great heights. At Chicago O’Hare International Airport, 26 aeroponic grow towers were installed between terminals 2 and 3 last year.

Aeroponic refers to a method of hydroponic, or vertical gardening, in which seeds are planted in small cubes of nutrient-dense spun volcanic rock, which holds in water and naturally biodegrades. Once plants grow to a certain size, they are transferred to the horizontal aeroponic towers. There, the plant roots are sprayed with a fine mist of water and a mineral nutrient solution for 15 minutes every 30 minutes.

The mist becomes highly aerated, which provides the plant roots with a high level of oxygen. These oxygen levels combined with adequate light and ventilation are a good mix and help produce as much vegetation as traditional soil gardening.

The water is recycled through the towers – which are 8 feet tall with a 30-inch diameter base – so no water evaporates or is wasted. This gardening method also utilizes space well. These gardens are cultivated year round, require no weed pulling, take up less space and produce more per unit than a traditional garden.

At O’Hare, the towers grow sweet basil, purple basil, dill, parsley, chives, lettuce, habanero peppers, thyme, oregano and green beans. Many of these crops are harvested and served at airport restaurants including Wicker Park Seafood & Sushi, Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless and the Wolfgang Puck Cafe.

Here’s a video on another vertical garden operation in the Chicago area, FarmedHere LLC:

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Comments

  1. Lucy Cubano says:

    Great! We are starting an agriculture project in Puerto Rico and we will like to use your site as a reference.

  2. Bobby R. Phills says:

    This is an outstanding concept that not only serve to train students about different disciplines in agriculture, but also serve to train them in the economics and importance of STEM as it relates to Agriculture and Food Sciences. We call this STEM concept FASTEM which stands for Food and Agricultural Sciences in Technology, Engineering and Mathomatics. We need to replicate such high schools and relatedtraining throughout the country. Students attending this high tech school will receive numberous scholarship offers throughout the country and will one day become agricultural scientists, professionals and hopefully, one day our boss or school teacher at all levels of education to include K-20. Thanks again for a job well done and we hope to someday establish a similar model in North Florida.
    Bobby Phills, Associate Dean, Researcha nd Extension at Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, Florida., an 1890 land-grant university.