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The Computer School's Hydroponic Lab Takes Root with Bountiful Vegetables

By Emily Frost | February 15, 2013 8:40am

UPPER WEST SIDE — Upper West Side students are growing plants and developing green thumbs — but they're not going near any soil or fertilizer.

Instead, middle schoolers at The Computer School on West 77th Street are growing plants hydroponically, through nutrient fortified water, without the use of soil, in a new classroom devoted to science and hydroponics.

Hydroponic growing is a farming technique that works well in urban settings because it doesn't require a lot of space, or in areas where soil is sparse or compromised. 

The program was funded with the help of a $35,000 grant from City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, support from the Columbus Avenue BID and the hydroponic systems companies Crop King and American Hydroponics. 

The Computer School's hydroponic garden is housed in a former science classroom and is meant to provide a hands-on experience for students, who are growing lettuce, kale, chard, squash, cucumbers and tomatoes. The school is raising money on the social media platform indiegogo to purchase devices to measure temperature, humidity, Ph and nutrient levels. 

Brewer said she was awed by the transformed classroom, whose new paint was donated by Beacon Paint and Hardware, and which smelled of "fresh herbs and fresh outdoor greenery."

"There are tons and tons and tons of plants. They have a huge squash," said Brewer, who said that all of the vegetables, including fresh basil and tomatoes, are set to be used in the school's cafeteria. 

The students are interested in eventually selling their bounty to area restaurants to help fund the project, Brewer said.