On the campus of The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina, cadets continue their hands-on education with sustainable farming through the Citadel Sustainability Project (CSP).

Using shipping containers to create three indoor farms, the cadets are part of the CSP, which is designed to create new experiences and opportunities for the students, as well as meet a wide variety of needs for the college itself.

CSP is a part of the college’s mission to reduce waste and become a green campus. The Citadel has conceived a variety of different programs and activities to engage staff, faculty, and students on campus about sustainability.

The Citadel Sustainability Project is made up of three simple concepts and building blocks:

  • Cadet based
  • Fill immediate and long-term nutritional needs
  • Provide hands-on sustainability education

Education is an important part of CSP, by having cadets learn about the fundamentals of aeroponic farming, the importance of having access to fresh and nutritious produce, and the future of sustainability.

One of the first things the cadets did was to create three container farms to learn the process of growing produce, in this case, lettuce, in a controlled indoor environment.

Each of the three containers has its own purposes:

  • The first container functions as a hydroponic farming system for their lettuce crops
  • The second container is a testing ground for a variety of different growing systems
  • The third container was designed by the cadets to build growing equipment as part of their independent study

The campus grew more than 4,400 plants within their container farms, which included collard greens, lettuce, spinach, and herbs. Cadets can track the temperature, carbon dioxide, and pH levels through a smartphone app, while also tracking the metallic minerals.

The app can also water and send nutrients to the plants every 10 minutes.

Alex Richardson, one of the cadets who managed the containers before graduating, spoke to Mother Earth News and said:

“Cadets are excited about The Citadel Sustainability Project because it incorporates biology, chemistry, computer science, business, engineering, and community outreach. It gives us the opportunity to collaborate with students outside of our own programs on a project focused on global population needs.

Alex Richardson, Mother Earth News interview

“And seeing people on campus eat and enjoy our crops is gratifying.”

Another way the CSP is helping to educate students is by bringing in local high school students. One school was able to incorporate the indoor farm into one of their projects, while another class wrote business plans on the containers.

Several nearby restaurants have plans to use the lettuce that was grown in the container farms, while the other produce and crops will be used to feed the cadets on campus on a regular basis.

For more articles on sustainable farming, check out our blog!