US (MN): Restaurants adds growing cabinet to cultivate microgreens on the spot

Diners’ curiosity sparked at the Northsider this semester regarding the glass-door refrigerator containing sprouts and seedlings, called the Grow Shelf, located next to the deli section. The Grow Shelf is an experimental project that grows plants without using soil.

Beetroots and peas are microgreens, which are young seedlings of edible vegetables and herbs. Microgreens are used as garnishes, toppings, or sides for dishes and can range from parsley to cabbage. The density of nutrients is why the Grow Shelf team, Jason Cole and Samuel Vigil, chose to grow microgreens.

Cole is the production chef at the Northsider dining hall, and Vigil is the student worker at the Grow Shelf. The project was conducted by Vigil due to his passion for aquaponic and hydroponic systems. “I’ve built my own in the past,” Vigil said. “I saw the hydroponic machine in the Northsider, found a listing for a student worker position on ICMS, and applied for it.”

The shelf is used to grow garnishes, but it’s also being used to decrease the carbon footprint made by the process of obtaining microgreens through the market. By growing these greens on campus, the dining halls can use only what they need.

Vigil said there is not much information on the consistency of the shelf, but the focus now is to experiment with the microgreens, holding on to the hope of producing garnishes for future meals at the Northsider.

“We’re trying to figure out what grows well, what the maintenance cycle needs, and how we get it to run consistently,” Vigil said.

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