No Soil Required

Imagine a garden in your home that requires no soil. Georgie Corkery, an environmental and sustainability studies and urban ecology major with a minor in design, spent her summer researching this idea, known as hydroponic lighting. Steve Burin, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the U, helped mentor Corkery through the research.

“Hydroponic systems are growing systems that don’t require soil, you just use water and add nutrients,” Corkery said. “I wanted to know if food would grow more efficiently in hydroponic systems verses in soil by comparing energy, water and nutrient use as well as pounds of yield for both growing methods.”

At the end of her research, Corkery found that plants in the hydroponic system grew substantially faster than those in soil, but use significantly more resources. “The kale plants in the hydroponic systems produced more kale than a kale plant growing in soil,” she said.

The point of this research was to determine how to maximize urban agriculture and specifically focusing on growing systems that people can use in their homes.

Along with her research, Corkery is also the lead steward for the Edible Campus Gardens, which is a student program ran through the sustainability office. She is the farmers market booth manager, the greenhouse coordinator and leads volunteers in educational work sessions.

“We teach volunteers how to grow organic gardens and give them the skills to grow food on their own. The most sustainable thing you can do is grow your own food,” she said.

To learn more about the edible campus gardens, visit

More articles like this in ‘Student Innovation @ the U!’

Find this article and a lot more in the 2017 “Student Innovation @ the U” report. The publication is presented by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to celebrate student innovators, change-makers and entrepreneurs.

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