Not many brewing companies employ a full-time gardener, but not many brewing companies have a full indoor aeroponic garden above their brew room. I have to slip soft blue booties over my shoes before I go inside to meet Amy Erfling so I don’t contaminate the produce.
Erfling gardens in a 1,200 square foot room full of organic herbs and lettuce at Skagway Brewing Company. Her operation harnesses the carbon dioxide produced by brewing to fuel the plants. Growing the local produce is both supplying the brewery’s restaurant and adding a layer of food security to the remote southeast community.
She gestures towards one of the “beds.” “So there is a green oak leaf, and a red oak leaf… and then we have a couple of summer crisps in there,” she said. If you’ve never seen an aeroponic garden before, picture a warm, humid space full of what look like twin mattresses hanging from the ceiling. But where the mattress would have a cushion, these have plants.
It’s snowing outside, but it’s about 75 degrees in the garden. And there’s a hum from a bunch of fans that keep air circulating. The fresh air is augmented by carbon dioxide, which is known to boost plant growth. It’s also conveniently a natural waste product from the brewing process. So a little pipe in the wall takes that gas from the brew room up to the garden where it speeds photosynthesis. Water laced with a nutrient mixture sprays down plant roots every eight minutes.
Read more at Alaska Public (Claire Stremple)