Food grown at Middlesex County College is making its way to the table

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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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  1 / 17 
Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON
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Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria. The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS PETERSON

EDISON – Vegetables and fruit cultivated in a hydroponics lab on the Middlesex County College (MCC) campus is making its way to the table, from department luncheons to the campus cafeteria.

The Department of Natural Sciences and the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics (HCD) have teamed up to serve food grown on campus as part of the meals they serve.

To find any leafy green – kale, arugula and sweet peas – or herbs – basil, rosemary and parsley – culinary students don’t have to venture far – just to the South Hall Science Building – and they can pick up the ingredient the same day they need it.

Parag Muley, professor of Natural Sciences in biology and sustainability, said to compare timeframes, by the time a vegetable bought at a grocery store makes its way to ones kitchen table, eight to 10 days could have lapsed.

A discussion about a partnership between departments began last fall and launched in the spring. Muley said setting up a room and figuring out a huge list of materials took time. The partnership received a $5,000 grant from the college, which went toward a small greenhouse with solar panels and a grid.

Why hydroponics? 

Hydroponics is growing plants in water and part of sustainable living.

Muley said when he came back to teaching full time, he was looking at some of the hands-on modules that could be very relevant to sustainability and current challenges when it comes to the environment.

“One of the biggest challenges we had is sustainable agriculture,” he said. “The simple perspective is we already have 7.6 billion people [in the world]. We will pretty soon be about 9 billion by 2050 and be hitting 12 billion people by the end of the century. We are already using optimal land for agriculture and every year our agricultural production is going down.”

Muley said the question is how are 9-12 billion people going to be fed.

“Water is an emitting resource, agriculture currently uses 70% of fresh water extracted either underground, from lakes or whatever source,” he said, noting this is an inefficient way of using water.

Muley said he naturally gravitated toward the technique of hydroponics, which uses 90% less water.

“It’s actually nothing new, it’s sort of a 3,000-year-old technique,” he said. “The Babylonians had hanging gardens. We have known it except it has never concentrated in a commercial, educational setting to really produce edible plants.”

Advantages of hydroponics, which can grow every leafy green and microgreen, is almost 80-90% more efficient when it comes to water compared to soil agriculture, he said.

“Hydroponics is generally done indoors so you control the environment and the further advantage is there are no herbicides, pesticides for pest issues, so we are using less chemicals,” Muley said, adding the produce is healthier and safer, and because the nutrients are in water in a measured amount, the food has the same – if not better – quality as grown in soil.

Other advantages include the use of less space and energy and with hydroponics most plants grow 30-40% faster than it would in soil.

Traditional farming is a horizontal enterprise. Plants need soil so farmland covers massive acreage. Hydroponics is more vertical.

“It’s like going from a ranch-style house to a skyscraper,” Chef Brian McInerney of the HCD Department said.

Muley said from a seedling to harvest stage, the growth time is less than five weeks for lettuce, kale and any leafy greens.

“In soil, we can’t do anything outside until it warms up and even if it was summer, it takes six to seven weeks for it to harvest,” he said.

Partnership

Professor Claire Condie of the Natural Sciences Department said it has been a dream of hers to work with the culinary program to get a farm-to-table system developed at MCC.

“For years, I have been trying to have an outside community garden,” she said. “Just between timeframes [of semesters] and what produced when the culinary department is ready, insects, drought whatever the case may be, it was never a successful adventure.”

Condie said with hydroponics they can control all the elements and get everything into a time table when it is needed and start to do a farm to table exercise with the help of students in the Earth Science Club and students in the sustainability science degree program.

“The students see where everything starts from all the way to finish, it’s an excellent science project,” she said. “The club does hands on work and it is also part of the curriculum as well. In my classes we added a service learning part to it.”

Muley said they have been testing and growing different produce – finding success with microgreens, the new superfood.

“It is very fast with a very high turnaround and the product is very nutritious,” he said. “The next question was what do we do with the produce we are going to grow.”

That is when discussions began with Mary-Pat Maciolek, chair of the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Dietetics. She said the program will allow culinary students to more fully understand the food supply chain, as well as learning to be flexible and adaptable.

“Whatever they harvest will be put to use,” she said.

All four MCC staff members emphasized the collaboration was a terrific learning opportunity for the students, especially since hydroponics is a booming field with numerous job opportunities.

“This is just a great learning experience,” Condie said. “And it’s amazing for the campus.”

Culinary students are currently using campus-grown food in their culinary classes, but the program will expand during the HCD Luncheons, in which advanced students plan, prepare and serve lunch to the college community.

Student Will Nieves, who is from the Fords section of Woodbridge, who will be the first graduating class in the sustainability science program at MCC, said it has been a unique experience working hands-on in the hydroponics lab. He said the quality and texture of the food grown is robust and flavorful.

Muley said down the line they will look into becoming USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) certified to get feedback on their operation.

Contact Kathy Chang at kchang@newspapermediagroup.com.