As the Township of Livingston continues to brainstorm ways to make the best use of its open spaces, Keith Hines and sustainable agriculture expert Tom Erickson recently proposed a hydroponic pilot project that would use a nutrient solution and water in lieu of soil for a community garden. After the duo’s initial proposal to implement the project at the Essex County Riker Hill Art Park fell through, the township is now looking into the possibility of doing so at the recently purchased Strahman Hill Park property.
“The project itself uses horticulture hydro-culture techniques to sustainably produce crops in an efficient organic manner with no impact to air, water or local environment, which is pretty important to us,” said Erickson, who also explained that hydroponics have a zero-carbon footprint. “We also plan on using the latest low-cost electronics to add a layer of control and monitoring that allows participation of the town administrators, fire, and police.”
According to Erickson, the hydroponic project could also provide unique educational opportunities for students interested in agricultural engineering and environmental sciences.
“Our mission is to supplement the local food pantries in a sustainable, organic, and efficient fashion with low environmental impact and potential for education,” said Erickson. “I think this has high potential to team up with the high school, the elementary school and open up doors to learning and training at the educational level.”
Hines, who is known in the Livingston area for his philanthropic endeavors, thanked the township council for considering a project that he feels would be important to the entire community. “It's obviously incredibly high-tech stuff and really fascinating in terms of what can be accomplished with the technology and the fact that it's not going to have any footprint at all,” said Mayor Shawn Klein, who was impressed that the project has the potential to generate nutritious food for people who don't have access to it without causing problems with fertilizer or runoff. “I think it sounds great, and hopefully we'll have a lot of success and be able to expand even in the same footprint as the county park or maybe even in town.”
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