Micro Farms at LGH

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Micro Farms at LGH

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Chef Tim Schoonmaker combines innovation, sustainability, nutrition AND flavor with the installation of two hydroponic greenhouses in Lynchburg General Hospital. Now, the hospital will be able to provide even more healthy food to its patients and staff all year long from a local source. Produce grown in the hydroponic system include red leaf, spring mix, Bibb, and romaine. Chef Tim can monitor the progress and harvest times using a phone app.

Tim Schoonmaker, MBA, CEC, WCEC, CCA, CDM, CFPP, FMP, MCFE, Director and Executive Chef, Centra Nutrition Services

In growing our lettuce, while it is not enough to sustain every day, our goal is to "test the waters" in what type of space and time would be needed to move forward with our production of produce. The lettuce grown in the farming units are 100% organic and are packed with nutrients since we are controlling the environment and not allowing nutrients to absorb into the soil. The units mimic the natural ecosystem by simulating day and night (that is why you see the lights off sometimes and hear fans running that mimic wind). 

And at the end of the day, there is not another hospital system in the US that can say that they have these units. Centra is the first! They are an eye-catcher and show our commitment to making things better for our future. Along with these units, we will continue to farm our herb gardens and LGH and the large garden at VBH, which runs May-September.

How does a hydroponic micro-farm work?

The process begins in bottom trays where the seeds under a set of lights that emulate day and night and are sprayed with water and nutrients until they sprout. Then the seedlings are moved up to a pool-like container that floods from the bottom. This allows the roots to soak up water and other nutrients without disturbing the growth up top. After seedlings grow big enough, the gardeners will move the plants to the vertical towers that hang from the ceiling and allow water to flow down to the roots of each plant. Along the rows of towers also hang LED full-spectrum lights that mimic conditions of photosynthesis. The hydroponic system uses less water than a regular farm because all the water only used by the plants and not soaked up the soil. The water that does cycle through is removed by a dehumidifier, filtered then flows back into the tank.  These self-contained ecosystems are manufactured and installed by Babylon Micro-Farms in Charlottesville.