City Grown

Panther Dining's Sous Chef Cameron Thompson tells how Georgia State is feeding campus with the Southeast's first hydroponic farm.

Georgia State has a farm?

PantherDining is using a system developed by a Boston company named Freight Farms to grow fresh food inside a shipping container repurposed for farming. A complex computer system called Agrowtek controls everything — light, air, water and nutrients. We farmers monitor and maintain the farm with a program called FarmHand, which tells us what’s going on, complete with alerts and status snapshots. We keep the farm at 65 degrees and use 10 gallons of water and 60 amps of light every day.

What do you grow?

We mainly focus on lettuce, planting and harvesting more than 1,000 heads every week. I like to grow lettuces that students know, such as romaine, Bibb and buttercrunch, and that look and taste good, like red salanova, red cross and wasabi arugula. Panther Dining catering and eateries like Legal Grounds, Miss Demeanors Café and Centennial Café use the lettuce in sandwiches, salads, wraps and more. Soon, we’ll use the lettuce in our dining halls as well.

What’s next?

Georgia State is working to become a pioneer in sustainability. One day, we hope to use the farm to help students learn about agriculture and the benefits of fresh, local food. We hope it’s a start to many other innovations across campus and Atlanta.