One of the restaurants at Quebec’s Université Laval is starting to grow some of the vegetables it serves to students.
The Université Laval formed a partnership with a student association to develop a local hydroponics system. The association, AgroCité, is a group of student-entrepreneurs from the university who are working to develop an urban agriculture business model specializing in hydroponics and aquaponics. The goal of the partnership between the Université Laval’s Pub Universitaire and AgroCité is to install a system demonstrating hydroponics right in the restaurant. This smaller version of a large-scale hydroponics production is currently producing two types of lettuce that will be used by the restaurant.
Hydroponics is a soil-free method of growing plants that has many advantages: the plants grow larger and are fed solutions with minerals and fertilizers. “This means you can have fresh local lettuce even in the middle of January at the same price as regular lettuce,” explained Benjamin Laramée, president of AgroCité. For the next session, the installation will also include a variety of herbs, such as basil, chives, coriander, oregano and parsley, allowing the restaurant to get all of its herbs from this hydroponic system.
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“The AgroCité initiative was launched in 2015 by agronomic students who wanted to do something tangible with what they were learning. Their objective was to make the campus as self-sufficient as possible, in terms of food.” The association also believes that installing similar systems across all of the campus cafeterias will make a significant sustainable development impact and help promote healthy lifestyle choices within the university community. “At their full potential, all of the systems installed by AgroCité around campus will produce over 40kg of lettuce per week, not counting the strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs!,” said Laramée. For the past two and half years, other AgroCité food production systems have been sprouting up in other buildings. “Our objective for the next year is to consolidate our current systems and diversify our production so we can offer a greater variety of products. Eventually, we hope to increase our presence in buildings across the university so we can supply all of the cafeterias.”